November 10th , 2019

Updated statement following earlier statement by the Honorable Minister of Health, Pakistan Dr Zafar Mirza on 7th November 2019, confirming the detection of type 2 vaccine derived poliovirus (VDPV2) through the disease surveillance system in Pakistan:

Pakistan has detected an outbreak of polio but this outbreak is not wild poliovirus, it is VDPV2. The outbreak has paralyzed 7 children in northern Pakistan in areas with weak routine immunization coverage. Countries like China, Philippines, Indonesia, Nigeria, Kenya and several other African countries have also faced outbreaks of this virus strain in recent times. Pakistan has successful experience of dealing with such outbreaks in the past and had not detected this strain of virus for more than two years.

Following the detection in July 2019, the Pakistan Polio program has undertaken extensive and detailed investigations to fully understand the characteristics of the virus as well as the associated risks to our children. Whereas such investigations take time and are still ongoing, the program had already initiated concrete steps to protect children in areas of virus detection. Immediately after detection of cVDPV2, an IPV round was conducted covering more than 180,000 children to quickly boost immunity. In the meanwhile, specific vaccine needed for the response was also managed from global pools.

Based on the current risk assessment, the programme will commence a special vaccination campaign from November 11, 2019 in 11 districts of northern Pakistan (Haripur, Abbotabad, Mansehra, Battagrtm, Shangla, Torgar, Kohistan, Diamer, Gilgit) as well as the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad. Proceeding in a phased manner, over 2.5 million children up to 5 years of age will be vaccinated through special door to door campaigns during next two weeks.

Circulating VDPV2 primarily occur in under-immunized communities and the recent outbreak underscores the importance of strong surveillance systems and the need to reach children everywhere, every time with polio vaccines. Vaccines remain the most cost effective tool for preventing the morbidity and mortality associated with multiple killer diseases including Polio. Pakistan’s Polio eradication programme is therefore, coordinating closely with EPI to ensure all children receive essential vaccinations in timely manner.

A healthy future for the children of Pakistan remains the top priority of all segments of the society. Parents are requested to ensure that every child under 5 years of age is vaccinated during upcoming rounds, even if they have been previously vaccinated.