Pakistan

No new Polio related Travel Restriction, Minister for NHSR&C ‘The global community recognizes Pakistan’s efforts to overcome the current challenges’

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ISLAMABAD, 10 January 2020 –

Clarifying news item published in few segments of press, Dr. Zafar Mirza, Minister of State for National Health Services, Regulations & Coordination has out rightly denied the impression of any new Polio related travel restrictions on Pakistan. ‘The WHO Emergency Committee recommendations (not travel restrictions) were first made in May 2014 and have since then been periodically reviewed and extended for all countries infected by Polio virus’, Dr. Zafar said in a statement on Friday.

Pakistan had a challenging year for Polio eradication in 2019. As of today, 134 of our children have been paralysed by this debilitating disease. The government has put in place a comprehensive plan to reverse the situation in 2020 starting with the roll out of a successful nationwide Polio vaccination campaign in December. This was stated by the spokesperson of the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations & Coordination while responding to the News items published in different sections of press on reporting of the new Polio cases.

Commenting on the WHO IHR Emergency Committee recommendations regarding vaccination of international travellers from Pakistan and other infected countries, the spokesperson shared that these were made in 2014 to prevent the transmission of virus from infected countries to other areas. ‘Pakistan implemented the same immediately as a responsible member of the international community and has been doing so since then’, he remarked. It was further shared that over 500,000 international travellers from Pakistan receive Polio vaccine every month prior to departure and the certificate issued in this respect is valid for 12 months. Around 180,000 travellers of all ages are additionally vaccinated every month at Pak-Afghan border crossings. The spokesperson completely denied the reports of any additional recommendations imposed by WHO committee for the incoming international visitors traveling to Pakistan.

Pakistan Polio eradication programme faced special challenges in 2019 which led to resurgence of Polio cases during the year. The programme however, conducted a critical analysis of the situation and devised a comprehensive strategy to overcome challenges in sustainable manner. ‘Our fight back has already started through the successful December NID that was inaugurated by the Prime Minister in the federal capital and all Chief Ministers in respective provinces. A total of 40 million under 5 year age children were successfully reached and vaccinated to protect them against the crippling virus, stated Coordinator of the National Emergency Operations Centre.

The National EOC has planned an aggressive case response from 13th January targeting around 12 million <5 children in currently infected districts. This will be followed by two NIDs in February and April and another strategic response round during March. ‘All these efforts will plug the immunity gaps and significantly reduce the transmission intensity by mid-2020 setting the stage for the final push towards Zero’, he added.

Dr. Zafar Mirza, Minister of State for NHSRC stated that the Government of Pakistan under the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan, was fully cognizant of the existing challenges and the urgency to overcome them. ‘Besides the ongoing programme transformation in high risk areas, the Government was working across political divide to take the agenda forward as a shared priority. Besides extensive community engagement, the Ministry of NHSRC has already moved on integration of the Polio programme with EPI to quickly improve routine immunization coverage particularly in the high risk areas. Forty super high risk UCs have further been identified within core reservoirs for a laser focus where a broader package of services will be delivered aiming improvement of basic health services, nutrition as well as the safe water and sanitation by broadening partnership’ the Minister stated.

Dr. Mirza also informed that the transformation plan and the roadmap was shared with Global leadership including the Polio Oversight Board that expressed it’s confidence on it and reassured Pakistan of the fullest support to achieve a Polio free Pakistan and the World.

Note to Editors:

Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by poliovirus mainly affecting children under the age of five. 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.