ISLAMABAD, 21 December 2019

The nationwide Polio vaccination campaign launched on 16th December is achieving desired objectives and its success would set the tone for turning tide against the crippling virus that paralysed 111 children in Pakistan during 2019. This was stated by Dr. Zafar Mirza, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health while updating progress on the ongoing campaign wherein 265,000 frontline polio workers are going door-to-door to ensure vaccination of 39.52 million children under the age of five.

According to the National Emergency Operations Centre, though the data from remote union councils of Balochistan and Kyber Pakhunkhwa is yet to be added, the valiant frontline polio workers have successfully vaccinated almost 99% of the targeted children across Pakistan, in four days of the campaign already.

The catch up activities to cover the missed children shall continue in core reservoirs of Karachi, Peshawar, Khyber, Quetta, Pishin and Killa Abdullah, today and tomorrow (Sunday, 22nd December 2019). Thanking the unprecedented support by law enforcement agencies, the press release added that the campaign went smoothly across Pakistan. A few security incidents were wrongly linked to the Polio campaign in a section of the national and international media. The National Emergency Operation Centre (NEOC) urges support from all journalists and media persons for ensuring correct and responsible reporting with regards to immunization and polio eradication campaigns.

The campaign was inaugurated by the Prime Minister Imran Khan in the federal Capital and all Chief Ministers in respective provinces as a mark of national commitment towards the cause. The support across the political divide as well as all segments of society was evident from the campaign which was launched by top leadership and legislative members from all parties in their respective constituencies. 

During the launch event, Prime Minister Imran Khan had remarked, “It is my humble request to all mothers that if you have not been reached by our polio team then you should set out to find polio workers and make sure your children get the polio drops. Firstly, it is very important for your children. Secondly, it is very important for our nation. Our polio workers have sacrificed greatly in the past and they are heroes of our country.”

“We are mindful of the serious challenges posed by the virus and its implications on the health and economy of the country. We decided to take Polio eradication forward as a shared priority and with a sense of collective responsibility. A transformation process has accordingly been started that besides de-politicization of the programme, aims to integrate routine immunization, revive a “one team approach” coupled with a stringent accountability; and broadening partnerships to deliver an integrated package of services to the most deprived communities living in super high risk union councils within the core reservoirs”, stated Dr. Mirza.

We are greatly encouraged by the campaign progress so far, shared Dr. Rana Muhammad Safdar who was reassigned last month to lead the country’s fight back against the raging virus assault. “Our engagement with communities and efforts to tackle negative propaganda are bearing fruits as we observe parents responsibly immunizing their children to keep them protected against polio”, he stated.

Pakistan remains one of the last two countries in the world, alongside Afghanistan, where poliovirus continues to circulate actively. There is a strong national and international commitment to eradicate it. It is a collective responsibility of every Pakistani to ensure all children are protected against the poliovirus. The Pakistan Polio Eradication Initiative has also initiated “Sehat Tahhafuz Helpline” to assist the reporting of missed children during the national immunization campaign. The parents and caregivers are encouraged to contact “Sehat Tahhafuz Helpline at 1166 and register their concerns regarding the missed children.

 ---------- ------------

Note to Editors:

Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by poliovirus mainly affecting children under the age of five. It invades the nervous system, and can cause paralysis or even death. While there is no cure for polio, vaccination is the most effective way to protect children from this crippling disease. Each time a child under the age of five is vaccinated, their protection against the virus is increased. Repeated immunizations have protected millions of children from polio, allowing almost all countries in the world to become polio free.