ISLAMABAD - Around 39.5 million children, up to five years of age, will be administered drops under the five-day national anti-polio drive that is scheduled to begin today (December 16).

According to Coordinator National Emergency Operations Centre Dr Rana Muhammad Safdar, over 260,000 frontline polio workers would go door-to-door to ensure all children under the age of five received the polio vaccine.

He said arrangements were complete so that all children could be immunized against the crippling disease across the country and the stakeholders had been fully engaged to ensure that the campaign was successful.

“It is possible for Pakistan to eradicate polio with the support of the community. I urge all parents and caregivers to ensure their children are vaccinated,” he said, and added, “If any child is left out between December 16 to 20, parents could request to receive it.”

He further said the Pakistan Polio Eradication Initiative had launched Sehat Tahhafuz Helpline so that the children who were left out initially, could be administered drops later.

39.5m children of up to five years of age to be administered drops

He asked the parents and caregivers to contact the Helpline at 1166 in case their child has not been administered drops.

He said polio, a highly infectious disease, was caused by a virus that mainly affected children under the age of five. “It invades the nervous system, and could cause paralysis or even death,” he explained.

He said that while there was no cure for polio, vaccination was the most effective way to protect children from this crippling disease. “Each time a child under the age of five is vaccinated, his immunity against the virus increases,” he added. He said repeated immunization had protected millions of children from polio across the world, leading to almost all countries to become polio free.

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination Dr Zafar Mirza assured the parents that the vaccine was completely safe.

He added that for complete eradication of polio, it was of utmost importance that all children, up to the age of five, were administered drops.

He urged the parents to fulfill their responsibility as Pakistan was one of the last two remaining countries in the world, alongside Afghanistan, where poliovirus continued to circulate actively.

“There is a strong national and international commitment to eradicate polio,” he said, and added that vaccination was the only and best protection against the disease.