LAHORE - Punjab on Thursday reported first polio case of the ongoing year, taking the overall tally in the country to 21.  The National Institute of Health in Islamabad has confirmed presence of polio virus in eight month old male child from Taunsa in Dera Ghazi Khan District. Punjab remained in the grip of wild poliovirus which paralyzed 12 children in 2019.

Confirming first polio case of the province in the current year, Incharge Polio Program Sundas Irshad said that “Punjab is the recipient of huge migrant population from reservoir districts which increases the risk of virus transmission”.

“We are in the process of verifying vaccination history of ill fated child”, she said, adding, special vaccination campaign would be launched in the district from March 16 to save more children from disability. 

On seeing symptoms, stool samples of ill fated child living under poor socio-economic conditions were sent to the NIH. The Lab confirmed presence of crippling virus on Thursday. The child developed symptoms on January 18 (paralysis of right lower limb).

Though the government is in the process of ‘verifying vaccination history’, the parent claimed that the child was given two doses during special campaigns and one during routine immunization.

The scenario has again raised the question that whether improved vaccination coverage and multiple campaigns were enough to eradicate polio as the latest victim of crippling virus has received three doses of oral polio vaccine (OPV).

“Yes, vaccine is important to get much-needed shield. But it is not a guarantee until other preconditions are fulfilled. Routine immunisation is vital. Multiple doses at a later stage are not a substitute”, said Dr Abdul Rauf, a family physician running clinic in thickly populated Usman Gunj.

“Malnutrition and co-morbidities like diarrhoea, dysentery and fever are major reasons behind children getting polio even after receiving multiple doses of vaccine. These children with weak immunity fail to produce antibodies (shield against polio) from the vaccine. As such they are not immune and can get polio if attacked by the virus”, he said.

“There is a need of maintaining cold chain, improving diet and monitoring condition of children before and after administering polio vaccine. Vaccine is useless if administered to a child with bad stomach or if he/she vomits after getting the dose. Proper training of vaccinators is a key to achievement of desired results from vaccination,” he said.

During 2016 and 2018, no polio case was reported in Punjab. While in 2015 as many as seven polio cases were reported from the province. Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria are the three countries left globally which are still endemic.