Political rivalries aside, the one thing that all political parties and institutions must unite together to support is the country’s consistent efforts to eradicate polio. On January 27, 2022 Pakistan marked one year without any cases of polio. However, four months later in April, a type-1 wild poliovirus (WPV1) was confirmed in a child from North Waziristan by the Pakistan National Polio Laboratory at the NIH, Islamabad. Moreover, the Lab also confirmed the detection of a positive environmental sample collected on April 5, 2022, from the Bannu district of the same province. In response to the detected case, a nationwide immunisation campaign is set to begin on May 23.
The country is no stranger to anti-polio drives. Pakistan remains one of only two countries that still grapple with the poliovirus. While we have made significant strides in the fight against polio, reducing the number of cases detected from 84 in 2020 to only one in 2021, there are still challenges facing us in becoming polio-free. Firstly, Pakistan’s demographic is changing, partly due to high-population growth levels as well as the intake of refugees from Afghanistan, the only other country in the world where polio cases are still detected. These factors require an accelerated vaccination programme.
It is hoped that the national and provincial governments make use of the lessons learnt in the many past anti-polio immunisation drives, some of them unsuccessful, that have been carried out. We also have the technology and experience of the successful coronavirus vaccine campaign that was conducted and is still ongoing in the wake of the pandemic. The recent pandemic has demonstrated to us the importance of committed tracking, the use of mobile phones and devices to spread the message, and the need to address concerns of hesitant communities at all levels of implementation. It is hoped this new campaign is conducted consistently and cohesively so Pakistan can finally rid itself of this devastating virus.