ISLAMABAD - The first ant-polio drive of the year was launched on Monday to immunise above 39 million children under the age of five year across the country. However, polio workers faced difficulties due to torrential rains.

National Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) also deferred the campaign in 21 districts due to bad weather there.

Officials said that polio workers on ground faced difficulties in accessing public in areas hit by torrential rains and heavy snowfall.

“Workers had expressed reservations that severe weather will create problems for on ground workers”, said an official.

He also added that the families also face problems in difficult terrain regions and the situation might lead to missing in immunisation of children.

Meanwhile, the EOC also postponed anti polio campaign in some areas due to bad weather.

According to a statement issued from National Emergency Operation Centre Islamabad, the campaign was deferred in 21 districts including one district in KP, five in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, 4 districts in Gilgit-Baltistan, 9 districts in Sindh, one district in Punjab and the capital city Islamabad.

According to details shared by the National EOC, districts with fully postponed campaign include; Chitral in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Bagh, Poonch, Sadnuti, Haveli, Neelam in AJK, Astore, Ghizer, Hunza and Nagar in Gilgit-Baltistan, Shikarpur, Nosheroferoz, MirpurKhas, Shaheed Benazirabad, Qambar, Jakababad, Matiari, Haiderabad, Tandoallahyar in Sindh, Rawalpindi, and Islamabad.

In addition, the campaign was partially postponed in 14 districts that included Mansehra, Abbottabad, Dir Upper, Swat and Lakki Marwat, in AJK Jehlam Valley, in Baluchistan Sohbat Pur, in Gilgit-Baltistan Skardu, in Sindh Sangarh, Thatha, Badin, Kashmor, Sakhar, and Ummer Kot.

The Coordinator, National Emergency Operations Centre Dr Rana Safdar commended commitment of frontline workers to brave all odds and reach all eligible children in this critical national campaign. “The National EOC in coordination with relevant provinces and districts is tracking campaign progress across Pakistan. The door to door vaccination campaign in all deferred districts will be conducted as soon as the rain and snow fall subsides”, he stated.

According to the statement of Ministry of National Health Services (NHS), 260,000 frontline workers started door to door campaign which will continue for four days.

Federal health minister Aamer Mehmood Kiyani urged the public that polio workers will come door to door to immunise children against polio, “Make sure to cooperate with them as two drops of vaccine go long way towards safeguarding their future,” he said.

The statement issued said that 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 under the age of five receive two drops of the vaccine which will protect them against the poliovirus.

In 2018, 12 cases of wild poliovirus have been reported in the country including three from Dukki district in Balochistan, one from Charsadda, one from Lakki Marwat in KP and one from Gadap, Karachi, one from Khyber and five cases from Bajaur tribal district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. This indicates an overall 97 percent decrease in the number of annual polio cases from the highs of 306 reported in 2014.

Statement added that despite this significant achievement, the cunning poliovirus has been able to find a way for its survival. During the month of December, sewage water samples collected from Karachi, Peshawar, Bannu, Lahore, Rawalpindi, Killa Abdullah, Pishin and Quetta tested positive for the poliovirus. The genetic analysis reports from the Polio Virology Laboratory at the National Institute of Health confirmed that the virus was able to take the road from current hotspots within country and in Afghanistan, posing risk for under immunized children residing elsewhere.

According to the Prime Minister’s Focal Person on Polio Eradication, Mr. Babar Bin Atta, “The government has a firm resolve to defeat poliovirus transmission in the country through optimum utilization of this low transmission season.” He further said, “I am short of words to praise the efforts of polio workers and hope that they will perform their best in the first campaign of this year to fight this menace, once and for all.”

Under the umbrella of the National Emergency Operations Centre (EOC), the entire team of the Pakistan Polio Eradication programme will strive all out to hit the virus hard through this high-quality nationwide immunization campaign. Considering its significance, the National EOC has deployed 50 experts to facilitate preparedness and ground implementation of vaccination campaign activities by the local teams in priority areas. The campaign in Pakistan is synchronised with Afghanistan to ensure vaccination of all children on the move as well.