Islamabad, December 1, 2023 – A nine-month-old child has been paralyzed by poliovirus, bringing the number of cases reported from Pakistan this year to six.

The Regional Reference Laboratory for Polio Eradication at the National Institute of Health has notified that the virus was detected in a nine-month-old child from Orakzai district, who had onset of paralysis on October 24. 

“I am deeply saddened that this virus has robbed yet another child of the opportunity to live a healthy life and to live up to his potential,” said Federal Minister for Health Dr Nadeem Jan, adding, “This is a stark reminder that until we eradicate this virus, this disease will continue to remain a persistent threat, not just to our children but children across the world.”

The health minister urged parents and caregivers across the country to understand the risk to children and never say no to the polio vaccine which can help prevent lifelong disability and save lives.

Federal Health Secretary Iftikhar Ali Shallwani said that Pakistan remains one of only two countries in the world where this virus continues to be a threat to children.

“While the government is striving to protect children through multiple mass vaccination campaigns, community engagement and ownership is even more critical to this cause,” he said. “Our efforts cannot be successful if parents and caregivers continue to believe misinformation about the vaccine and refuse vaccination when polio workers visit. The polio vaccine is safe and efficient, please protect your children’s futures and get them vaccinated.” 

According to Dr Shahzad Baig, the coordinator of the National Emergency Operations Centre for Polio Eradication, this is the first case from Orakzai in almost 12 years.

“Our teams are already on the ground and in the community to investigate this case, to identify where the virus came from, and the factors that led to it causing paralysis in this child,” he said. “We have conducted several polio campaigns this year, including three national campaigns. Based on the findings of this investigation, we will plan further strategies to boost children’s immunity in the affected areas.”  

Note for the Editor:

Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by poliovirus mainly affecting children under the age of five years. 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 immunisations have protected millions of children from polio, allowing almost all countries in the world to become polio-free, except for the two endemic countries of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

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