Pakistan launches anti-polio drive amid rise in COVID-19 cases

Sajjad Hussain
·2-min read

Islamabad, Mar 29 (PTI) Pakistan launched a five-day anti-polio vaccination drive on Monday, despite challenges by the deepening third wave of the coronavirus across the country.

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, according to an official statement.

It said that “over 40 million children under the age of five” will be given anti-polio vaccine during the campaign that aims to raise the immunity of children that remain at risk of the crippling disease.

“It is an absolute must that all our eligible children stay protected against vaccine preventable diseases including polio…It’s every Pakistani's national duty to ensure that your own children, as well as those around you, are administered polio vaccine without fail,” said Dr. Faisal Sultan, the Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health.

Dr Shahzad Baig, Coordinator of the National Emergency Operations Centre, Polio Eradication Initiative (PEI), said the year 2021 presents a unique opportunity to leverage the gains made in 2020, despite the challenges of the pandemic.

“We have started witnessing the impact of our hard work over the last six months in terms of improved epidemiology. This is reflected by the declining polio cases and decreased detection of viruses in sewage samples. I commend our frontline workers for their amazing commitment and urge further intensifying pressure on the virus by vaccinating every child during the upcoming campaign. It is critical that we sustain our progress to achieve eradication,” said Dr Baig.

Currently Pakistan is one of the two polio-endemic countries in the world along with its neighbour Afghanistan, according to the statement.

But there are signs of improvement as so far only one case has been reported this year as compared to 84 last year, according to to Pakistan Polio Eradication Program.

The five-day drive was launched despite partial lockdown imposed in several areas of the country identified as coronavirus hotspots.

Pakistan tally of the COVID-19 infection has reached 659,166 while the country has recorded 14,256 related deaths. PTI SH IND