KARACHI: The Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) for Polio in Sindh will conduct a province-wide Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) campaign in Sindh from the 15 to 21 August 2020.
Spokesperson, EOC Sindh, said that the campaign would take place in all 29 districts of Sindh with a total target population of 9,255,925 children under 5 years of age. In addition to OPV, 8.3 million children from 6 months to 5 years of age will also be given Vitamin A drops to boost their immunity levels. A total of 49,781 polio workers and 8497 area supervisors will be deployed in the province for house-to-house vaccination.
Minister for Health Sindh, Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho, on the occasion of Independence Day, said, “As I wish everyone a very happy independence day, I must highlight what we need to do to ensure a healthy future for the children of Pakistan. These polio campaigns are of the utmost importance as we must give children the oral polio vaccine to save them from polio and to ensure a healthy future for them. Pakistan is one of the two polio-endemic countries in the world along with Afghanistan and has so far reported a total of 64 cases of polio, out of which 21 cases are from Sindh. It is necessary that children receive these life-saving vaccines and also complete their routine immunization.”
Sindh had back-to-back successful campaigns from December 2019 to March 2020, which had gone a long way to put the polio program on track. However, since the outbreak of COVID-19, no campaigns could be conducted while routine immunization was also severely affected, leaving an immunity gap, which must immediately be addressed as children are more susceptible to the virus than before.
According to spokesperson EOC Sindh, “While we deal with the pandemic, we must also ensure immunization to prevent childhood diseases. Children can be saved from childhood diseases like polio, measles, typhoid, and others through vaccination, and we seek the media’s help to raise awareness regarding this.”
Following the halt in global polio campaigns from April to June as a result of COVID-19, Sindh conducted a small-scale campaign in District East and District West in Karachi during the month of July that covered 260,700 children under 5 years of age. The campaign was conducted through following all of WHO’s recommended COVID-19 precautionary measures, and the same will be followed during the August polio drive.
These safety measures mainly include: all COVID-19 precautionary measures to be followed during the training of workers, all polio workers and supervisors will use a face mask and hand sanitizer during the fieldwork to reduce the risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19, frequency and duration of evening review meetings at district levels will be reduced to alternative days and maximum of 1 hour respectively and no more than 10 persons will participate in evening review meetings.
In order to make up for the gap in campaigns, the EOC Sindh requests all parents to cooperate with polio teams and give their under 5 children two drops of the polio vaccine every time they are offered. The benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risk of transmission after COVID, and the Government of Sindh is committed to providing these life-saving vaccines to the children of the province so that the immunity gap can be decreased. The door-to-door campaigns will also be utilized to raise awareness on COVID-19 prevention as well as for referring mothers and children for other essential vaccinations and antenatal care services.
The Pakistan Pediatric Association, medical experts across the world, and major religious scholars across Pakistan and the region endorse the oral polio vaccine, which is the safest and most effective way to prevent polio and eradicate it from the environment. Ten billion doses of this vaccine have been given to 3 billion children across the world in the last decade because of which 10 million polio cases have been avoided.