Pakistan

40 million children to be vaccinated against polio in upcoming nationwide campaign

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ISLAMABAD, 18 September 2020 – The nationwide polio campaign will kick off from 21st September until 25th September with the aim of reaching 40 million children across the country with the lifesaving polio vaccine. This will be the first nationwide campaign in Pakistan since February due to a four-month suspension during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The September nationwide polio campaign coincides with the recent news of Africa being certified as polio-free. With this development, Pakistan and neighbouring Afghanistan are now the only remaining strongholds of the virus in the world.

“With the news of Africa being certified as polio free, we are also ramping up our efforts to bring us closer to a polio-free Pakistan. We are consistently reviewing our campaign performance and responding to the needs of the communities we interact with in order to improve our outreach and capacity. Moreover, we are integrating and synergizing systems and services across our polio and immunization programmes to accrue benefits from their respective assets and opportunities and ultimately strengthen the routine immunization of children,” shared Dr. Faisal Sultan, the Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health.

Earlier in July and August of this year, smaller case response campaigns were conducted to vaccinate children in high risk districts of the country. The scope of the upcoming campaign is much larger and seeks to vaccinate all Pakistani children under the age of five through door-to-door visits by a cadre of almost 270,000 vaccinators deployed across the entire nation.

As with the previous campaigns in July and August, polio vaccinators have continued to receive comprehensive training on how to vaccinate children safely within the COVID-19 context. This includes thorough prevention measures, such as hand washing, proper use of masks and keeping a safe distance from people during visits. Moreover, the programme has put strict measures in place for all staff following the Government of Pakistan’s set guidelines on COVID-19 preventative measures.

Speaking on the campaign, Dr. Rana Safdar, the Coordinator of the National Emergency Operations Centre of the Pakistan Polio Eradication Programme, urged all parents with children under the age of five to ensure vaccination against this paralytic and sometimes life threatening disease.

“This is an opportune moment for parents to make sure that their children are vaccinated against polio. We have made sure that all safety measures for COVID-19 are in place to protect children, their parents and caregivers as well as our vaccinators. The safety and health of our people will always come first,” he said.

To mitigate the risks associated with widespread presence of the virus, the Pakistan Polio Eradication Programme is planning to conduct back-to-back national vaccination campaigns in the remaining months of 2020 as well. Children will also continue to receive routine immunization services at fixed health centers across the country.

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Note to Editors:

Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by poliovirus mainly affecting children under the age of ten years. It invades the nervous system, and can cause paralysis or even death. While there is no cure for polio, vaccination is the most effective way to protect children from this crippling disease. Each time a child under the age of five is vaccinated, their protection against the virus is increased. Repeated immunizations have protected millions of children from polio, allowing almost all countries in the world to become polio free.

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