KARACHI: The Minister for Health Sindh, Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho, Secretary Health, Dr Kazim Jatoi, Coordinator, Emergency Operation Centre for Polio in Sindh (EOC) Sindh, Fayaz Abbasi, and EOC, Core Team Members, inaugurated the polio campaign at the EPI hall in Karachi.
The Health Minister and EOC Members gave polio drops to children and distributed gifts among them.
On occasion, the Minister for Health Sindh said. “The polio campaign will continue from 21st to 27th September all across Sindh and appealed to parents to vaccinate their children with two drops of the polio vaccine during every campaign.”
The EOC will conduct a province-wide Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) campaign in Sindh from the 21 to 27 September 2020. The campaign will take place in all 29 districts of Sindh with a total target population of 9,148,355 children under five years of age, out of which more than 2.2 million children reside in Karachi.
More than 50,000 polio workers have been deployed in the province for house-to-house vaccination, while 5000 personnel from law enforcement agencies will provide security cover for this important campaign.
These polio campaigns are of the utmost importance as we must give children the oral polio vaccine to save them from polio and 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 72 cases of polio, out of which 22 cases are from Sindh.
It is absolutely necessary that children receive these life-saving vaccines and also complete their routine immunization.
It may be mentioned that 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 that must immediately be addressed as children are more susceptible to the virus than before.
Since the start of the pandemic in March, this is the second province-wide campaign, with the first one last month in August.
According to the EOC Sindh spokesperson, “While we are dealing 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 due to COVID-19, Sindh conducted a small-scale campaign in District East and District West in Karachi during July that covered 260,700 children under five years of age. Following this, a province-wide campaign was conducted in August, which vaccinated approximately 9 million children. The polio drives were conducted while following all WHO recommended COVID-19 precautionary measures, and the same will be followed during the September 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 fieldwork to reduce the risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19, and workers will not knock on doors with their hands but instead, use a ruler or pen.
The government of Sindh is committed to providing these life-saving vaccines to the children of the province to decrease the immunity gap. 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, Pakistan Islamic Medical 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 for not only preventing polio but also eradicating it from the environment. 10 billion doses of this vaccine have been given to 3 billion children across the world in the last decade as a result of which 10 million polio cases have been avoided.