LAHORE   -  The World Health Organization (WHO) has once again called for intensive efforts to eradicate Poliomyelitis (polio) from the the world. Addressing a seminar on “One Day, One Focus: Endling Polio” here at the University of Health Sciences (UHS), on Friday, WHO National Surveillance Coordinator for PEI, Dr Shafiq ur Rehman said that a total of 79 cases of polio had been reported so far this year as compared to 147 last year.

The seminar was organized in collaboration with Emergency Operation Centre Punjab to commemorate World Polio Day which was observed on October 24 every year. UHS Registrar, Dr Asad Zaheer, WHO Provincial Surveillance Officer, Dr Ujala Nayyar, Communication Officer Anam Sairah, senior faculty and students also attended the seminar. Dr Shafiq ur Rehman said, “We must all give our best on this campaign to eradicate polio once and for all. I wish for zero polio transmission in year to come. You all must give your full support to help us reach every child and stop this virus for good.” He admitted that 2019 had been a crisis year as far as efforts for eradication of crippling disease were concerned.

However, he added, that things had improved as gaps had clearly been identified and strategies modified accordingly to make the immunisation campaign a success. He further said that the PEI staff had been on the front line in the fight against Covid-19.

“Using the vast infrastructure developed to identify the poliovirus and deliver vaccination campaigns, the polio eradication programme is pitching in to protect the vulnerable from Covid-19, especially with regards to detection, isolation, tracking of contacts, supporting labs in data collection and coordination and management of Quarantine facilities,” he apprised.

He said, the government extended a national help line (1166), originally used for polio-related calls but now providing information on COVID-19 to public. Dr Shafiq ur Rehman added that the polio communications team was using strategies routinely used to promote polio vaccines to disseminate information about the Covid-19 virus, including working with social media, to ensure accurate information sharing, and airing television advertisements.

Dr Asad Zaheer said, the day must serve as a reminder that now more than ever we needed to have social, political and global will to make polio the second human disease in history to be wiped from the earth.

“We can all be champions of polio eradication. As we join hands on the road to endling Polio, we can implement strategies and innovations to reach the non-immunised children; let’s leave no child behind”, he further stated.