Polio free future for Pakistani Children to be ensured at all costs – SAPM, Health

Islamabad, 2 September 2020 – Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on the National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination Dr. Faisal Sultan chaired a high-level meeting at the National Emergency Operations Centre for Polio Eradication today. The meeting was also attended by the Secretary, National Health Services Aamir Ashraf Khawaja and other senior officials.

Dr. Rana Muhammad Safdar, Coordinator of the National Emergency Operations Centre presented a comprehensive review of the polio situation in Pakistan focusing current risks and challenges as well as the strategies and approaches being adopted to overcome them. ‘The programme conducted a forensic analysis of the significant Polio upsurge in 2019 and based on the same, a transformation process was initiated. Promoting the sense of collective responsibility, door to door vaccination was successfully resumed with nationwide campaigns in December 2019 and February 2020’, Dr Safdar remarked.

Sharing results of the July and August campaigns conducted after COVID pause, the National Coordinator also highlighted initiatives undertaken to address community perceptions and stress the need of ensuring essential vaccination during COVID. ‘The programme engaged with religious leaders, local and social media influencers, celebrities and media personnel to promote vaccination based on scientific facts and counter anti-vaccine propaganda. The “Sehat Tahaffuz Helpline 1166” provided direct and credible information on vaccinations as well as the COVID-19, he stated.

Dr. Faisal Sultan, Prime Minister’s Special Assistant on Health, lauded the efforts being made to make Pakistan polio-free. He stated that polio eradication is the top-most priority of the Government as polio affects the future generations. Expressing serious concern over the polio cases, Dr. Sultan urged joint working of the EPI and PEI programmes at all levels to quickly plug the wide immunity gap for all vaccine preventable diseases including Polio. ‘Systematic mechanism to monitor community sentiments must form the basis of an effective awareness campaigns’, he advised.

Dr Faisal also stressed upon the need to proactively involve all segments of society to play their part in eradication of poliovirus, once and for all. He emphasized that without the continued support of parents, a polio-free Pakistan cannot be achieved. He further assured his full support to the Polio Eradication programme in its efforts to reach out to every child across Pakistan with all essential vaccines.

Commenting on the results of the recent campaigns, Dr Faisal lauded the commitment of frontline polio workers, who braved all odds to undertake house-to-house vaccination during hot and humid weather of July – August in order to protect them from the crippling polio disease.

Senior programme officials while thanking Dr. Sultan for his support to the programme reaffirmed their resolve to optimally utilize the upcoming vaccination campaigns over the next few months as the opportunity to push the virus back setting the stage to stop the poliovirus circulation across the country.

The programme aims to vaccinate almost 40 million under 5 children in the next nationwide campaign scheduled to start from 21st September utilizing a workforce pf almost 270,000 across all provinces and areas.

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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Mr. Zulfiqar Babakhel, Media Manager, NEOC, 0345-9165937