ISLAMABAD-The National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) on Monday said that recent anti-polio drive achieved its target as 94 per cent children below age five were immunised with the vaccine in five days campaign.

A statement released by NEOC said that the anti-polio drive was halted due to novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, however, it was resumed on 20th of this month.

The statement said that recent anti-polio drive was launched in Karachi, Faisalabad, Attock, South Waziristan and Quetta.

The statement also said that polio workers were also given special training during this anti-polio drive and it was instructed to keep social distance during vaccination.

NEOC said that four months gap was made due to suspension of campaign during pandemic, however, now it was concluded peacefully. The statement said that public also supported the anti-polio drive and same is expected in upcoming campaigns.

“Big preparations are underway for the anti-polio drive in the month of August and September,” it further said.

It said that national level campaigns will be held in the months of October, November and December for the elimination of virus.

Pakistan resumed polio vaccination activities on 20 July with a campaign in selected districts after a four-month suspension of all polio vaccination activities due to COVID-19 pandemic. Districts included in the first round are Faisalabad, Attock, South Waziristan, and parts of Karachi and Quetta with a target to vaccinate almost 800,000 children under the age of five. 

Under the guidance of the Ministry of Health 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-19 surveillance and response efforts at different levels.

The resumption plan prepared by the national team in consultation with provinces was presented to and endorsed by the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) on Polio Eradication in Pakistan during meeting in June advising robust safety measures. The plan encompasses large scale case response rounds in August and September and three nationwide campaigns during last quarter of 2020. The meeting of the National Command and Operations Centre held on 04 July, chaired by the Prime Minister, and having all chief secretaries on board, appreciated the resumption of essential immunisation services and urged all stakeholders to urge the optimal quality of supplemental immunisation activities envisaged in the plan to resume polio immunisation activities.

“We are initially aiming to target areas with continuous polio virus circulation to protect children against the crippling polio disease during this case response. Staff are being especially trained on preventive measures to be followed 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,” said Dr. Rana Muhammad Safdar, Coordinator of the National Emergency Operations Centre, Polio Eradication programme. 

“The door-to-door campaigns will also be utilised 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 further added while requesting support of all segments of society, particularly parents.