ISLAMABAD – A polio vaccination campaign has kicked off in 39 districts of the country to vaccinate more than six million children under the age of five, after sewage samples in Lahore tested positive for wild polio virus last month.
Federal Minister for Health Abdul Qadir Patel encouraged parents and caregivers to ensure that their children are vaccinated in this and every campaign to protect them from the disability-causing virus and to stop it from gaining a foothold in their communities.
The polio drive will be held from February 13 to 17 in full in nine districts, including the seven endemic districts of Bannu, DI Khan, Tank, Lakki Marwat, North Waziristan, Upper South Waziristan and Lower South Waziristan in southern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and two districts of Punjab – Lahore and Faisalabad.
Partial campaigns will be conducted in 30 districts during which children will be vaccinated in select union councils of Sheikhupura, 57 UCs bordering Afghanistan, 58 UCs with Afghan refugee camps and 107 UCs of Multan with high-risk mobile populations.
The drive is being conducted after two environmental samples collected from two separate sites in Lahore tested positive for wild poliovirus in January. The first positive sample of 2023 was detected on January 19 and was genetically linked to the poliovirus found in Nangarhar province of Afghanistan in November 2022, according to the national polio lab at the National Institute of Health. This was the first evidence of cross-border transmission in more than a year. The second positive sample was reported on January 27, which was genetically linked to a virus circulating in south KP.
Health Minister Abdul Qadir Patel said the presence of wild poliovirus with genetic links to virus in Afghanistan and south KP in sewage samples is evidence that the virus is moving with people and circulating in our communities.
The minister said: “Poliovirus on any side of the border is a threat to children in both countries. Only repeated doses of the oral polio vaccine can offer life-long protection. Our vaccinators will keep bringing the vaccine to your doorstep as often as needed, so I encourage parents and caregivers to ensure that your children take these drops and remain protected.”
Coordinator of the National Emergency Operations Centre, Dr Shahzad Baig said that in the last phases of eradication polioviruses move with under-immunized populations, highlighting the importance of repeated vaccination.
He said last year 37 environmental samples were positive for wild poliovirus in 13 districts, but the program remained successful in preventing circulation in the districts of detection and limiting it to the endemic districts of southern KP.
Lahore district, which reported the positive samples, was already covered during the nationwide campaign in January. The February round will be the second round of response to the virus detection in Lahore, followed by another round in March.
Note to Editors:
Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by poliovirus mainly affecting children under the age of ten 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 immunizations have protected millions of children from polio, allowing almost all countries in the world to become polio free.
- Press Release