ISLAMABAD - A five-day nationwide polio campaign will kick off from Monday with the aim of reaching 40 million children across the country with the lifesaving polio vaccine.

This will be the first nationwide campaign in Pakistan since February due to a four-month suspension during the COVID-19 outbreak, an official of Polio Eradication Programme said on Sunday. The September nationwide polio campaign coincides with the recent news of Africa being certified as polio-free.

With this development, Pakistan and neighbouring Afghanistan are now the only remaining strongholds of the virus in the world.

“With the news of Africa being certified as polio free, we are also ramping up our efforts to bring us closer to a polio-free Pakistan. We are consistently reviewing our campaign performance and responding to the needs of the communities we interact with in order to improve our outreach and capacity,” he added.

“Moreover, we are integrating and synergizing systems and services across our polio and immunization programmes to accrue benefits from their respective assets and opportunities and ultimately strengthen the routine immunization of children,” Dr Faisal Sultan, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Health Services said.

Earlier in July and August of this year, smaller case response campaigns were conducted to vaccinate children in high risk districts of the country.

The scope of the upcoming campaign is much larger and seeks to vaccinate all Pakistani children under the age of five through door-to-door visits by a cadre of almost 270,000 vaccinators deployed across the entire nation.  

As with the previous campaigns in July and August, polio vaccinators have continued to receive comprehensive training on how to vaccinate children safely within the COVID-19 context. This includes thorough prevention measures, such as hand washing, proper use of masks and keeping a safe distance from people during visits. Moreover, the programme has put strict measures in place for all staff following the Government of Pakistan’s set guidelines on COVID-19 preventative measures.  

On the occasion, Dr Rana Safdar, the Coordinator of the National Emergency Operations Centre of the Pakistan Polio Eradication Programme, urged all parents with children under the age of five to ensure vaccination against this paralytic and sometimes life threatening disease.