Punjab launches a five-day polio vaccination drive in a bid to make Pakistan polio-free

According to reports, hand sanitizers and face masks have been provided to the teams, in line with the Covid-19 SOPs. A total of 48,000 teams are aiming to vaccinate around 20 million children. 

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Following Chief Minister Punjab, Usman Buzdar’s directives, a polio immunization campaign has begun in Punjab from today (11th January) till 15th January with a total of 48,000 teams and an aim to vaccinate around 20 million children. 

“Besides being administered polio drops, the children would also get capsules of Vitamin A,” informed a spokesperson of the polio campaign. They added that Punjab has reported 14 cases out of the total 84 cases of poliovirus in Pakistan.

CM Punjab has given the task to supervise the campaign to commissioners and deputy commissioners. The team that performs the most efficiently during the polio drive would be rewarded as well, CM added. According to reports, hand sanitizers and face masks have been provided to the teams, in line with the Covid-19 SOPs. 

Read more: Pakistan’s polio conundrum, only reforms can help

CM Usman Buzdar reiterated the government’s vision of a polio-free Pakistan, adding that his government is doing everything through its available resources to secure our children’s future. He urged the parents to cooperate and allow their children to be vaccinated, and become a part of the government’s mission to make Pakistan polio-free.

Last week, Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) announced to provide a total of $60 million to Pakistan for the polio vaccine. An agreement was signed between a representative of IsDB and the Economic Affairs Division, representing the government for the financing.

The $60 million amount also includes a $21 million “Life and Livelihood Fund (LLF)” grant while the remaining $39 million will be put to use for polio vaccination in Pakistan.

“Today, we celebrate the long-standing partnership with the Islamic Development Bank. Over the years, we have received consistent support from the bank to keep up the fight for a polio-free Pakistan. We also thank the partners of the Lives & Livelihood Fund (LLF) for the allocation of grants for this cause,” said Secretary Economic Affairs Division, Noor Ahmed, highlighting his appreciation for IsDB’s constant support and efforts for the Pakistan Polio Eradication Program (2019-2021).

Read more: Poliovirus Eradication: An uphill battle for Pakistan

IsDB’s funding, in the past, has also served significantly for the cause of making Pakistan Polio free. It’s financing from 2013 t0 2021, has granted $487 million for this purpose.

IsDB bank will continue to support this cause as well as help people affected by the ongoing pandemic, it is committed to make Pakistan a polio-free country, said an IsDB representative.

Pakistan is one of the two countries where polio is still endemic which further affects its perception and trust across the world.

Poliomyelitis or poliovirus is an infectious disease spread primarily through human contact, through the ‘fecal-oral’ route. It spreads into the environment through an infected person’s feces; ultimately affecting the surrounding residents and community.

Read more: More than 48,000 refuse polio vaccination in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa

It can affect any age; however, children under the age of five are most susceptible to getting infected with it. The infected individuals can end up suffering from an irremediable ‘polio paralysis’ as the virus compromises one’s nervous system in a short time or even death.

There are two vaccines used to protect against polio disease, oral polio vaccine and inactivated poliovirus vaccine. The former, most commonly used in Pakistan, are cheaply procured from UNICEF at around US$0.12-$0.18. Since they are orally administered (don’t need sterile needles) and do not require health professionals such as doctors; it is easier for mass vaccination campaigns.

Polio Eradication Program

The Polio Eradication Program is a public-private partnership that includes the Government of Pakistan as well as the aforementioned entities. The program started in 1994 and has made significant progress with case numbers declining by 99 percent from the 20,000 cases that were recorded in the early 1990s.

The program continues to lead polio campaigns all over the country with dedicated health workers who ensure each child receives the oral polio vaccine. In 2020, despite COVID-19 lockdowns, the program reached out to over 39 million under-five children with over 260,000 health workers involved. However, despite their laudable efforts, Pakistan along with Afghanistan remains one of the two countries in the world where polio remains endemic.

Read more: Will Prime Minister Imran Khan be able to eradicate polio from Pakistan?