ISLAMABAD - The National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) on Thursday said that poliovirus has been detected in a dozen cities of the country and above 39 million children will be vaccinated in next anti-polio drive.

Pakistan Polio Eradication Programme detected the poliovirus in 12 cities including Peshawar, Lahore, Karachi, Quetta, Rawalpindi and other big cities.

In a statement, the NEOC said that the extensive environmental surveillance established by the Pakistan Polio Eradication Programme has detected the poliovirus in sewage of twelve cities last month.

According to result shared by the NEOC, the presence of virus was confirmed in sewage samples collected in March 2019 from cities of Peshawar, Lahore, Karachi, Rawalpindi, Mardan, Bannu, Waziristan, Hyderabad, Kambar and Sukkur.

NEOC says over 39m kids to be vaccinated in next anti-polio drive

Considering the associated risks, the Country Programme has urged parents to ensure immunization of all children during every polio campaign.  According to the Prime Minister’s Focal Person on Polio Eradication Babar Bin Atta, “the country has the best opportunity to stop transmission of poliovirus, and its time to gear up our support to the brave frontline workers enabling them to reach and vaccinate every child”.

He said: “Presence of virus anywhere is a threat for vulnerable children. The continuous population movement to and from many of these metropolises pose a real risk to the children elsewhere as well. I can’t emphasize enough how critically important it is to ensure that each and every child is vaccinated during the upcoming polio campaign in the month of April”

The second nationwide polio vaccination campaign of 2019 would be started across Pakistan on April 22. During this campaign, a total of 260,000 frontline workers will go door to door across all provinces and towns to ensure more than 39 million children receive two drops of the polio vaccine which will protect them against the poliovirus. 

According to press release sewage water samples are collected on a monthly basis from 59 sampling sites across the country. The criteria of sample selection include population size, socio-economic status and a functioning sewage system.

These samples are collected under the supervision of relevant provincial health departments, and tested by state-of-the-art Regional Polio Reference Laboratory housed at the National Institute of Health, Islamabad.

The genetic sequencing further guides the programme in undertaking requisite response activities. The persistent poliovirus circulation in a given area represents the existence of under-immunized children who miss vaccination in routine and the door to door polio campaigns due to any reason. These missed children pose a risk for themselves as well as other children around them by shedding the virus to the sewage.

The World Health Organization (WHO) in previous month had maintained the travel restrictions on Pakistan as the wild poliovirus (WPV) was not eliminated completely from the country.

The WHO took this decision during its Emergency Committee meeting

The statement of the International Health Regulations (IHR) Emergency Committee stated that the meeting reviewed the data on the wild polio virus (WPV1) and circulating vaccine derived polio viruses (cVDPV).

According to the statement, restrictions remained continued on the countries including Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria, because the cases of WPV are still being reported from there.