A health challenge arose on Oct 15 when Sagheer Ahmed, Sindh minister for health, said at a press conference at town health office, Gulberg, Karachi, that a polio prevention campaign would run from Oct 15 till Oct 17 under the working of 21,000 teams made countrywide. It was a welcoming note to all the parents of Pakistan but darkness spread on it on Oct 22 when a news bulletin announced that an inventory of vaccines is coming to an end leaving one million deprived all over the country.

The health ministry claimed to vaccinate 7.4 million children in Sindh only, and vaccines have ended leaving 0.3 million children deprived. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 212,000 are missed, while 40,000 are missed in Punjab. It was said that 3.4 million children will be vaccinated but at this time one million are deprived countrywide. It was also said that 6,095 mobile teams, 784 fixed teams, 43 border teams and 284 transit teams had been formed. I do not understand why so many teams were formed when the main theme, the vaccine, was missing right from day one. A stock should have been arranged before the beginning of the campaign. How strange that the country is now considering importing the remaining vaccines in emergency. It could have been much better to buy vaccines from our own pharmaceutical industries which are preparing quality-assured vaccines as injectable polio vaccine and acellular pertussis vaccines, as well as combinations of different vaccines having better seroconversion are available in Pakistan. This would reduce the cost to the government. According to the recommended immunisation schedule, the vaccines of bacille calmette Guerin, oral polio vaccine, diphtheria pertussis tetanus, hepatitis b, haemophilus influenza type b, pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, measles, mumps, rubella and typhoid should be given before age of two. If the amelioration of these diseases could not be ensured by providing vaccines at suitable time, then one could easily think of the morbidity as well as of the mortality rate of the new generation from the infectious diseases.

An 18th heart drowning case of a 33-month-old baby girl, diagnosed of polio, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa makes us realise how important it is not to delay and to ensure every child becomes a part of this vaccine disease eradication campaign irrespective of the law and order situation and the difficulties faced by the answerable teams to reach the target. I also suggest making vaccination a routine part of healthcare.


Karachi, November 3.