Pakistan polio program on track of success: Dr Mirza

ISLAMABAD, Dec 29 (APP):Terming the nationwide Polio vaccination campaign a first step towards making Pakistan polio free, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Health Services, Dr Zafar Mirza on Sunday said results from December’s drive showed the disease eradication programme is now back on track.

Dr Mirza was given a detailed briefing by the Coordinator National Emergency Operations Centre Dr Rana Muhammad Safdar on completion of anti-polio campaign that was conducted from December 16-20.
This was the first nationwide campaign conducted since April this year after an orchestrated incident in Peshawar impeded the programmes operations. He was informed that 265,000 frontline workers had vaccinated 43.9 million children under the age of five of the targeted 39.6 million children across Pakistan in five days of the campaign.

In the core reservoirs of Karachi, Peshawar, Khyber, Quetta, Pishin and Killa Abdullah the catch-up activities were extended for a day to cover children who were missed during the door-to-door vaccination.

The polio eradication program is headed in right direction and the government has a firm resolve to defeat poliovirus transmission in the country through optimum utilization of this low transmission season, Dr Mirza said.

He particularly appreciated the unprecedented support of the law enforcement agencies (LEAs) during the campaign and said that it was for the first time that there was no geographical space on the map of Pakistan that was not accessible to the polio teams.

He said it was because of the tireless efforts of the LEA’s that the campaign was conducted peacefully. While appreciating the active role of majority of the parents and caregivers in welcoming the vaccinating teams to their house, he said that without the continued support of the parents a polio free Pakistan would not be possible.
Admiring the role of frontline workers, he said the programme should be mindful of their sacrifices in the past and consider them heroes of the success of the polio campaign.

Prime Minister Imran Khan inaugurated the December campaign himself. The commitment and dedication to the cause of polio eradication was seen across the board as the chief ministers lead the campaign in all provinces and were equally supported by their respective chief secretaries, provincial Coordinators and District administration.

It was for the first time that Pakistan Polio Eradication Initiative launched its Sehat Tahhafuz Helpline to assist in the reporting of missed children during the national immunization campaign. A total of 253 calls were received, of which 154 were about vaccinations requests.

The call centre with the support of the operations team immediately followed up these requests and 99 percent of the children were vaccinated. Through WhatsApp Helpline, 79 vaccination requests were received which were also followed up immediately and local teams were assigned to vaccinate the children.

The parents and caregivers were encouraged to contact Sehat Tahhafuz Helpline on 1166 and register their concerns regarding the remaining missed children. During the course of the meeting it was emphasized that there is a dire need to enhance the capacity of the frontline workers. The inclusion of an integrated package – polio-plus, in the Super High Risk Union Councils (SHRUC’s) during the next nationwide campaign in February was also discussed.

To address the misconceptions surrounding the polio vaccine a more rigorous approach that includes continued community engagement for countering propaganda and broader commitment to address perceptions was agreed.

“Low temperatures are the best opportunity to hit the virus. Pakistan’s Polio Eradication Programme is fully committed to using up-coming campaigns over the next few months as the opportunity to stop the virus circulation once and for ever” Dr Rana Muhammad Safdar, the National Coordinator for Polio eradication said.

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