KP faces daunting task of finding unvaccinated children

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PESHAWAR: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is facing a daunting task to find out the children, who have not been covered under the polio vaccination programme, according to sources.

They said that about 35 per cent of the total missed children in every campaign were never recorded by the vaccinators and weren’t included in the polio eradication programme.

The unimmunised children put at risk the vaccinated ones and are seen as one of the two remaining obstacles in the way of anti-polio efforts. Of the total 10,000 children, names of 300 hadn’t been recorded.

Besides, some children have not received enough doses as required according to their age. For example, an 18-month-old child should get 10 doses of the anti-polio vaccine but there are children, who have received two to four doses only and aren’t safe from poliomyelitis.

Identification and vaccination of the out-of-system children posed serious threats to the vaccination programme. It has been billed as an unwelcome sign for the polio programme in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata, which has been vaccinating 3.3 million children in the designated districts repeatedly in each of the five campaigns so far carried out under Sehat Ka Ittehad programme.

The campaign, started in April, will complete seventh round but the donor agencies suggest more focus on those children, who have not been registered by the health workers during the campaign.

Sources say that vaccinators hesitate to record the names of all missed children because the health department questions them for their failure to access all the target population.

These issues were brought into the notice of chief minister and chief secretary in a monthly polio review meeting held here on Monday. Instructions were issued to divisional commissioners to ensure that polio vaccination efforts take place smoothly and reach all children in the coming drive.

The meeting was also informed that though Pakistan had made progress as it recorded 21 cases in 2015 as compared to 58 cases in corresponding period last year, yet Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was known hub of polio virus which required more attention.

A small number of unrecorded children also spoil government campaigns, targeting total 5.3 million children in Fata and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The children, the world health agency says, should start getting OPV since birth but those with zero or less doses should be checked.

A latest case from Hayatabad locality in Peshawar is also a sign that the virus still exists through environmental water samples from one of the two sites has become negative after six months. Report from another site is pending.

Published in Dawn, April 21st, 2015

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