ISLAMABAD-Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) on Monday urged government to declare polio emergency in the country amid the rising toll of cases and to avoid international travelling restrictions.

In a statement issued by PMA it said that “PMA suggests the government to deal with this menace on priority basis and declare polio emergency in the country.” Pakistan Medical Association Secretary General Dr. Qaiser Sajjad said that the Polio infection remains endemic despite over 100 rounds of vaccination being carried out in the past decade and Polio programme has been deteriorated.

He said in 2018, polio programme seemed to be on the brink of eradicating poliovirus but during the year 2019 as many as 136 cases have been reported as compared to 12 cases in 2018.

The provincial data for 2019 shows that 92 polio cases have been reported from KP, 25 from Sindh, 11 from Balochistan, and eight from Punjab.

“This is very unfortunate that the International Monitoring Board has declared the Polio programme and the importance of delivering polio vaccine as ‘political football’ in the country while it also observed that there is lack of political unity behind polio resurgence in the country,” he said.

Dr. Qaiser also added that Pakistan remains under a polio-linked travel restriction imposed by the World Health Organization due to which, since 2014, every Pakistani travelling abroad has to carry a polio vaccination certificate.

“It is alarming that Pakistan can face travelling restrictions from other countries as well,” he said.

A statement issued added that PMA had already warned the government to pay full attention to the polio programme because due to weakening of the programme, we could face more travelling restrictions.

The United States has generated a Level 2 travel alert for Pakistan and other polio-endemic Asian countries following outbreak of the crippling disease, declaring the life-time booster dose for adults mandatory during the period of restrictions imposed by the WHO. The alert has been generated on the recommendations of the US federal agency - Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - to stop spread of the virus to other states.

A statement said according to the CDC, the polio outbreaks have been reported in eight Asian countries including Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Burma, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea and Philippines. The WHO recommended that these countries require residents and long-term (four weeks or more) visitors to show proof of polio vaccination before leaving the country.

Particularly, the WHO had extended travel restrictions on Pakistan following frequent outbreaks of vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 (cVDPV2) and wild polio-virus type 1 (WP1) cases, the statement said.

It said that PMA has been expressing and guiding the government to work with all stakeholders, political parties and religious leaders to eliminate polio from the country and previously suggested the government to form a special joint committee of the Parliament on polio and members from all the political parties should be included in the committee.

Government will have to run a strong campaign to let people know what polio is and what its consequences are and they should be made aware of the importance of polio vaccine. They should particularly be convinced that vaccine is very effective for the eradication of polio and it is absolutely not harmful in any way, the statement said.

It said that the message should go to public with such clarity that they themselves take their children to vaccine centres for polio drops instead of doing polio campaigns. Political/religious leaders, NGOs, teachers and family physicians all can play their due role in eradication of polio virus from Pakistan.