Nationwide anti-polio campaign begins

ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) resumed on Monday the nationwide campaign amid an uptick in coronavirus cases.

The latest drive aims to inoculate more than 40 million children under the age of five.

“During the five-day campaign, around 285,000 frontline workers, respecting Covid-19 safety protocols, will go door-to-door in all 156 districts across Pakistan to give polio drops,” a statement by Pakistan Polio Eradication Program (PPEP) said.

“Frontline workers and program staff have been diligently trained to adhere to Covid-19 precautionary measures, keeping communities and themselves safe from the virus,” the statement added.

In Punjab, 20 million children will be administered the vaccine. According to a spokesman of the provincial health department, 120,000 health workers will take part in the drive.

In Sindh, nine million children will be administered drops.

Whereas in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), more than 6.4 four million children will be administered drops. According to KP Emergency Operation Centre, some 30,000 teams have been constituted which will visit door to door to vaccinate the children.

Polio teams will also be available at bus stops, railway stations, Afghan refugee camps, and other public places to ensure the vaccination of every child.

In Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), over 242,000 children will be administered the vaccine.

Pakistan is one of the two polio-endemic countries in the world along with Afghanistan. The country is facing a challenging situation in polio eradication with the upsurge in the number of polio cases. In 2020, 83 polio cases were reported across the country, including 24 from Balochistan, 22 each from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Sindh, and 14 from Punjab.

The government’s efforts to rid the country of polio have lately suffered setbacks due to attacks on vaccinators and police personnel guarding them. The deadly violence is also cited as a factor for the upsurge in new cases that had dropped to only 12 cases in 2018.

Strict security measures had been taken for the campaign and personnel of Balochistan Levies force, police and Frontier Corps (FC) would move with all teams of vaccinations.

In traditionally conservative parts of the country, many see the vaccine as a Western-led conspiracy to sterilise children. To deal with the situation, religious scholars, tribal elders and other people who have influence in their areas would motivate parents to get their children vaccinated.

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