ISLAMABAD - Immunization is the backbone of health system and the provision of preventive care services to the people through the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) is on top of the government agenda. This was stated by Federal Health Secretary Khushnood Akhtar Lashari while chairing a meeting of the national Inter-Agency Coordination Committee held here on Wednesday. The meeting was attended by international partners of the government in the health sector, high officials from the Ministry of Health and provincial health departments and experts. Come what may adequate resources will continue to be provided to programmes like polio eradication and routine child immunization with a view to saving innocent lives and ensuring well being of our children, added Lashari Referring to the polio situation in the country, he said, Perseverance and commitment was the key as we grapple with challenges access into the security compromised areas. In the year 2007 with just 32 polio cases reported in the country, we thought we were there and the end of polio was in sight. However, the situation changed dramatically and there was an upsurge in cases in 2008 owing to the security situation in parts of the country, he further maintained. Earlier, briefing the meeting, national head of the countrys Expanded Programme on Immunization, Dr Altaf Hussain Bosan said there was a need to push forward routine immunization in the country and the federal and provincial health departments had declared October 2009 as Immunization Month. He said during the month an intensive advocacy and public awareness drive would be launched to center-stage this issue and out reach teams would go in to the communities and immunize children who were either missed by the system or those whose immunization course was only partially completed. A special mother and child week and a national immunization round for polio will also be part of the immunization month, he informed. Dr Bosan also elaborated the plan for expansion and strengthening of the cold chain system for effective storage of vaccines at the federal, provincial and district levels. Dwelling on the polio situation, Dr Bosan said so far 45 cases of the disease have been reported this year. He said NWFP and FATA, Quetta and Karachi were areas of -2-concern with persistent polio virus circulation. The issue of safe access to security compromised areas for the polio teams remains a major challenge, remarked Dr Bosan, adding that of the 24 cases reported from NWFP and FATA, 23 were from inaccessible to partially accessible areas whereas three out of the four cases in Karachi are amongst the Pukhtoon families. A special international mission assigned by the Director General World Health Organization briefed the meeting on preliminary findings regarding barriers to polio immunization. Terming accountability as a major concern at the implementation level, the mission called for placing institutional mechanisms in place to ensure effective accountability of officials at different levels implementing the polio drive. The mission called for deploying Lady Health Workers in poorly performing districts to upscale routine immunization. The mission also called for investing more in culturally sensitive and locally appropriate communication strategies and approaches top mobilise the masses and increase their knowledge of immunization while addressing public misconceptions and suspicions vis-a-vis immunization.