KP acutely short of polio vaccine

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Ashfaq Yusufzai

PESHAWAR: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa faces acute shortage of oral polio vaccine and thus, struggling to implement the World Health Organisation recommendation for vaccination of all those traveling abroad from there, it is learnt.

The provincial government is required to administer OPV to people approaching the Bacha Khan International Airport, Peshawar for international travel.

“The government has decided to implement the WHO recommendations and administer anti-polio drops to all people traveling abroad from the province. However, it’s not possible until the federal government supplies the required stock of vaccine,” a relevant official told Dawn on Wednesday.

On Monday, the WHO had recommended travel restrictions on Pakistanis traveling abroad to prevent polio transmission to the countries long declared free of the crippling disease. The recommendation is about vaccination of all those traveling aboard against polio irrespective of their ages.

Until now, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa health department has been administering OPV to children up to five years of age.

The department had already anti-polio counter at the Bacha Khan International Airport, Peshawar, where children under five years of age are being provided OPV before traveling abroad.

However, the province will need an additional 50,000 doses of the OPV to be able to provide to the about 2000 people traveling through the airport every day.

Only this year, we have administered OPV to 479,000 children under five year at the Bacha Khan International Airport, officials said.

The WHO declaration came after back-to-back polio cases from Fata, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Karachi and emergence of positive environmental water sample from Lahore with a view to protect polio-free countries from re-infection.

The province has enough human resources to implement the recommendations in letter and spirit but it requires around 600,000 additional doses per year.

The provincial government has conveyed to the relevant authorities about the desired quantity of OPV. After the 18th Constitutional Amendment, it was the responsibility of the provinces to procure vaccine but the federal government had taken it upon itself to make sure that the provinces receive OPV.

In this light, the health department is waiting the supply of vaccine before embarking on the implementation of the WHO recommendation.

The province’s existing stock is supposed to be given to the children to the under-five children during campaigns.

Under the plan, the people planning to travel abroad within next forty days could get vaccination at the district headquarters hospitals and teaching hospitals and a certificate by the relevant medical superintendents, while those visiting foreign countries within few days could be given OPV on the counter at the airport.

When contacted, provincial health minister Sharam Khan said travel restrictions were initially for three to six months and that the polio vaccine certificate would be valid for one year.

“We are fully prepared to implement the WHO recommendation and continue our efforts to eradicate polio,” he said.

The minister said the government had made marked progress towards polio eradication due to the Sehat Ka Insaf programme and that efforts were underway to continue vaccination in other districts, too.

“We have also requested the federal government to ensure vaccination of children in Fata and put brakes on the transportation of virus to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Similarly, request to Afghan government has also been sent through federal government to immunise children in areas located nearby Pak-Afghanistan border,” he said.

The minister said the Indian government had already made it mandatory for Pakistanis to get vaccinated against polio before traveling to its territories two months ago.

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