ISLAMABAD           -        A three-day polio immunization drive continued on Tuesday in selected districts of the country after a four-month suspension of all polio vaccination activities due to COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are initially aiming to target areas with continuous polio virus circulation to protect children against the crippling polio disease during this case response,” Dr Rana Muhammad Safdar, Coordinator National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC), Polio Eradication Programme said.

He added staff has been especially trained on preventive measures to follow during vaccination, including protocols of door-knocking and marking, keeping the desired physical distance inside homes, and ensuring safe handling of a child while vaccinating and finger marking. He said that the door to door campaigns will also be utilized to raise awareness on COVID-19 preventive measures and referring mothers and children for other essential vaccinations as well as the antenatal care services.

He requested support of all segments of society, particularly parents for success of the campaign.According to an official of the NEOC, Polio Eradication Programme, the government has decided to reach the eligible children with all essential vaccines and re-launch small scale door to door vaccination round since suspension during March in the context of COVID-19.

He said that the first round of the campaign has launched in districts included Faisalabad, Attock, South Waziristan, and parts of Karachi and Quetta with a target to vaccinate almost 800,000 children under the age of five.

He said that under the guidance of the Ministry of National Health Services and following the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) guidelines and Polio Oversight Board recommendations, the Pakistan Polio Eradication programme had suspended all polio related activities in the last week of March, except surveillance. In the meanwhile, all programme strengths and capacities were redirected to support the ongoing COVID surveillance and response efforts at different levels. The programme has been vigilantly monitoring the evolving risks of COVID as well as the polio and other vaccine preventable diseases across Pakistan. The suspension of immunization activities was due to lockdowns, closure of OPDs and travel difficulties disrupted essential health interventions.