Country-wide polio vaccination campaign begins today

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KARACHI: Polio vaccination campaigns across all four of Pakistan’s provinces started on Monday, with the duration and number of target children varying in Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, and Punjab.

This is the first nationwide campaign in the country after its four-month suspension due to COVID-19 outbreak during which 40 million children below five years of age will be administered the anti-polio vaccine, according to a Radio Pakistan report.

The scope of this campaign is much larger and seeks to vaccinate all children through door-to-door visits by almost 270,000 vaccinators all over the country.

The polio vaccinators have received comprehensive training on how to vaccinate safely within the COVID-19 context.

A spokesperson for the Sindh Health Department said the seven-day anti-polio drive has been launched across Sindh, including Karachi, today, with a target to vaccinate nine million children.

The anti-polio campaign volunteers would go door-to-door to vaccinate children, the spokesperson said, adding that special care would be taken in light of the coronavirus-related SOPs.

Police and other law enforcement agencies were also called in to protect the volunteers, they added.

In Peshawar, the coordinator for the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) for polio eradication in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa said a three-day anti-polio drive was launched across the province after being suspended earlier on March 13 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The target, the official added, was to vaccinate 6.54 million children during the campaign, with 28,528 teams of polio workers participating in the campaign.

Coronavirus-related SOPs would be strictly enforced during the campaign, the coordinator said, adding that the field staff were provided with surgical masks, hand sanitisers, thermal guns, and other protective equipment (PPEs).

The anti-polio drive across Balochistan started today in Quetta, according to the EOC for polio eradication in the province, with the campaign aiming to vaccinate 2.5 million children.

More than 10,000 teams were participating in the anti-polio campaign, the EOC noted. In addition, the services of community health workers were enlisted for the success of the drive.

So far this year, at least 19 cases of the poliovirus have been reported in Balochistan, with the provincial health department confirming the latest one in a seven-month-old baby in Ahmad Khanozai area on the outskirts of Quetta.

On the other hand, the spokesperson for the Pakistan Polio Eradication Programme in Punjab said the five-day anti-polio drive would run from September 21 to 25 in the province.

The virus is spreading to major cities due to a prolonged gap in the anti-polio campaign when it was suspended earlier due to the coronavirus pandemic, the spokesperson explained.

The campaign’s target was to vaccinate over 20 million children against polio, they added, noting that a monthly anti-polio drive would help stop the spread of the virus.

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