A campaign has been scheduled to vaccinate more than 21.54 million children under the age of five against polio in Sindh and Punjab on March 13, 2023. The vaccination campaign will be held for five days in two phases due to the ongoing activities of the seventh national census.
During the first phase, over 17.41 million children under the age of five will be vaccinated from March 13 to March 17 in 13 districts of Punjab, 16 districts of Sindh, and Islamabad.
In the second phase, which will be held from April 03 to 07, more than 4.12 million children in 12 districts of Balochistan and 26 districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, including seven endemic districts in the southern region of the province, will be vaccinated.
Federal Minister for Health Abdul Qadir Patel has urged parents and caregivers to ensure that their children receive the polio vaccine, which has been found circulating in environmental samples.
Abdul Qadir Patel, the Minister, said, “The presence of wild polio in the environment shows that the virus is circulating in our communities and posing a serious risk to our children.”
Dr Shahzad Baig, National Emergency Operations Center, said, “We have specifically designed this March campaign to reach areas where population movement is not just frequent but also expected during Ramadan and Eid festival. It is essential that we reach as many children as possible with the vaccine now to curb polio transmission.”
Since September 2022, no human case has been reported in Pakistan when a polio outbreak paralyzed 20 children in southern KP districts. Wild poliovirus was detected for the first time this year in sewage samples collected from two separate sites in Lahore in January.
Two more samples have since then tested positive for polio – wild polio has been detected in a sample collected from D.I.Khan, and variant poliovirus has been detected from Ghotki. Therefore, the polio program has taken all measures to ensure the vaccination of children to keep them safe from this highly infectious disease in the context of positive environmental samples detected in some places.
It is important to note that Poliomyelitis is a highly infectious viral disease that mainly affects young children. The polio virus is transmitted by person-to-person and is spread mainly through the facial oral route, or less frequently, by a common vehicle such as contaminated water or food. The virus multiplies in the intestine, from where it can invade the nervous system and cause paralysis. The initial symptoms of polio include fever, fatigue, headaches, vomiting, stiffness in the neck, and pain in the limbs.
The Pakistan Polio Eradication Program has been fighting to end the crippling polio virus in the country since 1994. The campaign is free for every child in Pakistan, and it is crucial to save children from the polio virus.