Islamabad November 23, 2019

With a view to depoliticise health and benefit from the wider advice and input from seasoned minds of the country, a National Strategic Advisory Group on Polio Eradication and Immunization has been formed. The broad based body constituted iin consultation with the Prime Minister will be led by Dr. Zafar Mirza, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health and include former Prime Minister Focal Persons on Polio Eradication Shahnaz Wazir Ali and Senator Ayesha Raza Farooq besides former Pakistan Permanent Representative at the UN Zamir Akram. Other key members include Chairman National Assembly Standing Committee on Health Khalid Magsi and Dr. Nosheen Hamid Parliamentary Secretary for National Health Services and Dr. Sanjay Gangwani Member Provincial Assembly Sindh.

To eradicate Polio from Pakistan and effectively protect  children from other vaccine preventable diseases through a truly national effort, we have constituted this National Strategic Advisory Group said Dr. Zafar Mirza in a statement.

This decision has been taken in consultation with the Prime Minister of Pakistan in the wake of the situation faced by the country due to the virus upsurge in the country during 2019 that has so far resulted in ninety one (91) Wild Polio Virus (WPV1) cases along with the recent emergence of circulating Vaccine Derived Polio Virus Type 2 (cVDPV-2) in northern Pakistan, he added.

The high burden of vaccine preventable diseases in Pakistan has been a daunting challenge over the years. Moreover, the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination was particularly concerned over the steep Polio upsurge that affected all provinces touching alarming proportions in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The Ministry felt it imperative to put health as a shared national priority and decided to tackle the challenge through national consensus, unequivocal support and commitment across the political and social spectrum.

Owing to their vast experience, the group aims to bring together political leaders and influential personalities, public health professionals, journalists, diplomats, religious and other community groups in support of immunization and specifically polio eradication. The group will further advise on the development and implementation of strategies and approaches aimed at repositioning Polio Eradication and Immunization as a high priority National agenda and harnessing renewed political and public commitment to the cause.

Since his takeover as a Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health, Dr Zafar Mirza has been promoting depoliticization of health. “Our children are endangered with preventable diseases like polio and we have to protect them from life long disability. This demands convergence and working together by transcending our political differences. Alongwith Afghanistan we are the only two countries that are holding back the world from becoming polio free. National unity is the need of the hour” said Dr Zafar Mirza.  Adding, with this effort to bring best people, the initiative taken by the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination will change perception of the communities and help in creating demand for the vaccines paving the way for a healthier and polio free Pakistan.