Sindh Minister for Health Dr Azra Pechuho here on Thursday announced incorporation of polio vaccination of children in the routine immunization programme in the province.
“The is being done under a National Action Plan to ensure eradication of the virus from our environment for good,” she said this while addressing participants of a walk arranged here by Emergency Operation Centre (EMoC – Sindh) to mark the World Polio Day 2019.
He said that elimination of polio virus has emerged to be a serious challenge for the country, she said it was a collective responsibility of every citizen to protect children against the crippling disease and to also spread awareness about it.
“It is mere two doses of absolutely safe vaccine that largely guarantee protection of our kids as well as many others against the diseases,” said Dr Azra Pechuho.
The minister while mentioning a big challenge in polio eradication said the missed children and refusals to administer polio drops. He urged media professionals and citizens to spread the message that two drops of the polio vaccine should be given to every child every time they are offered during campaigns. “This is the only way we can protect our children from this life long disease and eradicate polio from our country,” she said.
Dr Pechuho also emphasized the importance of spreading awareness about importance of routine immunization for childhood diseases, which are available free of cost at any government EPI centre.
Taking strong exception to the fact that myths along with deliberately generated misinformation about OPV have emerged to be a major cause of misgivings on part of many parents as well as communities, she said equal responsibility lies on influential sections to allay ill founded fears.
“Pakistan and Afghanistan are now the only two countries in the world that are still polio endemic,” said the Sindh Minister for Health. Referring to the fact that Pakistan has already reported more than 75 polio cases this year, she regretted that it was a huge jump from 12 polio cases in 2018.
“But we are more than capable of turning this situation around,” she reiterated seeking public support for the cause.
With specific reference to Sindh and its capital Karachi, she said virus has been travelling back and forth while environment samples of the virus are being tested positive across the country.
“However, we now have a golden opportunity to turn this around in the low season and come December, we will be having repeated campaigns all the way to June,” she said while sharing strategy details for the coming months. The Health Minister regretted that many of the communities were registered to resist repeated vaccination and a lot of people use the lack of civic infrastructure and basic facilities as a pretext to resist vaccination.
“Sindh government is trying to address this gap as well,” she said that multiple EPI centres, mother and child healthcare centres and experimental dispensaries have been opened to cater to groups in high risk areas for polio. In addition to this we are also trying to improve the nutritional status of children as well as trying to improve the hygiene conditions in these areas.
“With the help of partners we have also set up water filtration facilities and other wash interventions are planned that would be expanded across the province,” she said. Commissioner of Karachi, Iftikhar A Shallwani on the occasion said it were two drops of the polio vaccine that are needed for every child under 5 years of age in every campaign.
This he said, was critically needed to make Pakistan Polio Free and that the World Polio Day observed on October 24 reminds us of our responsibility towards the cause.