KARACHI - Minister for health Sindh Dr. Azra Fazal Pechuho on Saturday inaugurated the one-week polio campaign here in EPI hall which will start from September 21 and end on September 27 in the province. She was flanked by Secretary Health Dr. Kazim Jatoi, Coordinator EOC Sindh Fayaz Abbasi and EOC Core Team Members. The honorable minister and EOC Members gave polio drops to children and distributed gifts among them.

On the occasion the Minister for Health, Sindh said that ‘the polio campaign will continue from 21st to 27th September all across Sindh and appealed to parents to vaccinate their children with two drops of the polio vaccine during every campaign. She further said Emergency Operation Center for Polio in Sindh will conduct a province wide Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) campaign in Sindh from the 21 to 27 Sept 2020. The campaign will take place in all 29 districts of Sindh with a total target population of 9,148,355 children under 5 years of age out of which more than 2.2 million children reside in Karachi. More than 50,000 polio workers will be deployed in the province for house to house vaccination while 5000 personel from law enforcement agencies will provide security cover for this important campaign.

These polio campaigns are of the utmost importance as people must give children the oral polio vaccine to save them from polio and to ensure a healthy future for them, Pakistan is one of the two polio-endemic countries in the world along with Afghanistan and has so far reported a total of 72 cases of polio out of which 22 cases are from Sindh. It is absolutely necessary that children receive these life-saving vaccines and also complete their routine immunization, the minister said.

It may be mentioned that Sindh had back to back successful campaigns from December 2019 to March 2020 which had gone a long way to put the polio program on track, she said adding however, since the outbreak of COVID-19 no campaigns could be conducted while routine immunization was also severely affected, leaving an immunity gap which must immediately be addressed as children were more susceptible to the virus than before.

 This was the second province wide campaign since the start of the pandemic in March, with the first one last month in August.

 

Spokesperson EOC Sindh said “While we are dealing with the pandemic, we must also ensure immunization to prevent childhood diseases. Children can be saved from childhood diseases like polio, measles Typhoid and others through vaccination and we seek the media’s help to raise awareness regarding this.”

Following the halt in global polio campaigns from April to June as a result of COVID-19, Sindh conducted a small-scale campaign in District East and District West in Karachi during the month of July that covered 260,700 children under 5 years of age, he said adding a province wide campaign was conducted in August which vaccinated approximately 9 million children. The polio drives were conducted while following all WHO recommended COVID-19 precautionary measures and the same will be followed during the September polio drive.

These safety measures mainly include all COVID-19 precautionary measures to be followed during training of workers. All polio workers and supervisors will use a face mask and hand sanitizer during the field work to reduce the risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19. Worker will not knock on doors with their hands but instead use a ruler or pen, Spokesperson said.

Government of Sindh is committed to providing these life-saving vaccines to the children of the province so that the immunity gap can be decreased. The door to door campaigns will also be utilized to raise awareness on COVID 19 prevention as well as for referring mothers and children for other essential vaccinations and antenatal care services, he added.

The Pakistan Pediatric Association, Pakistan Islamic Medical Association, medical experts across the world and major religious scholars across Pakistan and the region endorse the oral polio vaccine which is safest and most effective for not only preventing polio but also eradicating it from the environment. 10 billion doses of this vaccine have been given to 3 billion children across the world in the last decade as a result of which 10 million polio cases have been avoided, he said.