Islamabad, September 29, 2015: In a high profile meeting held here today, Minister for National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination Saira Afzal Tarar endorsed the national plan of switching from trivalent Oral Polio Vaccine (tOPV) to bivalent Oral Polio Vaccine (bOPV) in the Routine Immunization schedule of the EPI. “We are moving one step ahead in unison with the global strategy for polio eradication; with the switch from tOPV to bOPV in the Routine Immunization”, said Minister while reviewing the switch plan. The meeting was also attended by Secretary Health Muhammad Ayub Sheikh alongwith by senior officials, development partners and donors.

The Minister while speaking on the occasion said that with the introduction of one dose of Injectable Polio Vaccine (IPV), we have already set the stage for greater protection of our children against disabling disease of polio. The withdrawal of tOPV and switch to bOPV along with the introduction of one dose of IPV is part of the strategy of the Polio Eradication and End Game Strategic Plan 2013-2018, she further added.

The Minister said protection of mother and child from deadly and debilitating diseases was her Ministry’s top priority and all efforts are being made to this end.

The meeting was briefed on the national plan of switch from tOPV to bOPV by Dr. Saqlain Ahmad Gilani, National Program Manager, EPI. Dr. Saqlain Gilani shared the detailed timeline of all activities included in the process of switch to bOPV and withdrawal of tOPV from the system. “Preparations are underway to switch the tOPV to bOPV on a National Switch Day”, added National Program Manager during his remarks.

A key objective of the Polio Endgame Strategy 2013 – 2018 clearly lays down inclusion of one dose of IPV in the Routine Immunization and switch from tOPV to bOPV. Currently tOPV is administered to all children under Routine Immunization schedule. With the eradication of poliovirus type 2 and 3 from the country, it is recommended to use bOPV in the EPI schedule to fight against poliovirus type 1 that is the only type existing in the country.

Health experts are of the view that with the inclusion of bOPV in the Routine Immunization, herd immunity will increase with better protection and defence mechanism of each child. Earlier EPI program has achieved a milestone by introducing IPV in the Routine Immunization program that is administered at the age of 14 weeks to all eligible children.