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Monday Jul 20 2020
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Polio vaccination campaign resumes today in Pakistan amid COVID-19 pandemic

Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only polio-endemic countries world over where polio is still circulating. Photo: File 

KARACHI: Pakistan resumes it polio campaign on Monday which was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic a few months ago, as volunteers gear up to vaccinate children in Karachi, Quetta and South Waziristan as well as other cities of the country. 

In Karachi, children under the age of five years will be vaccinated during a small-scale polio vaccination campaign in selected areas of the metropolis, which include Baldia Town, Orangi, North Nazimabad, Liaquatabad and SITE.

“The drive will target specific high-risk areas in all four provinces,” Rana Muhammad Safdar, Pakistan’s top polio official told Reuters, adding that vaccinators have been fully equipped with protective gear to guard against the coronavirus to ensure field workers do not spread COVID-19.

According to officials of the Polio Eradication Initiative, the wider-scale campaigns would be conducted every month in Sindh before the end of this year.

“These campaigns are of great importance as due to the COVID-19 pandemic the mass polio campaigns were stopped from March 2020. We must offer oral polio drops to every child under five years to save them from this crippling disease and ensure their healthy and productive life. It is necessary to vaccinate every child to fill the immunity gap among children,” officials told The News.

Officials have urged parents to vaccinate their children against vaccine-preventable diseases including polio. “In the context of the coronavirus pandemic, the parents must not fear as the government had taken all necessary precautionary measures as per the protocols of the World Health Organisation (WHO) for the safety of children,” an official said.

The official further said, “Sanitizers, masks and gloves have been provided to all polio workers. They will work according to the set SOPs, such as they will not directly handle any child, interact closely with the parents and spend minimal time at the doorstep.”

“The benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risk of COVID-19 and the Government of Sindh is committed to providing these life-saving vaccines to the children of the province. The door to door campaigns will also be utilised to raise awareness on COVID-19 prevention as well as for referring mothers and children for other essential vaccinations and antenatal care services,” the official added.

“To prevent childhood vaccine-preventable diseases, we must boost essential routine immunisation coverage. Children can be saved from 11 vaccine-preventable diseases, including polio, through vaccination. We recognise the pivotal role of media houses for raising awareness among masses.”

Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only polio-endemic countries world over where polio is still present. Pakistan has so far reported 58 confirmed polio cases this year, out of which 20 cases are from Sindh.