A health worker administers polio vaccine drops to a child during a vaccination campaign in Lahore on January 16, 2023. (Photo by Arif ALI / AFP) Image Credit: AFP

Islamabad: Over 44.2 million children under five years of age were administered polio drops during a five-day nationwide immunisation drive.

According to official sources, to provide maximum protection and boost a child’s immunity, polio teams also provided a dose of Vitamin-A to children aged six to 59 months in addition to polio drops, during the drive.

They said that the government had fixed the target to vaccinate over 10 million children in Sindh, over 421,000 children in Islamabad, 2,599,000 children in Balochistan, over 7,458,000 children in Balochistan, and over 278,000 children in Gilgit Baltistan. They said that over 350,000 trained and dedicated ‘Sehat muhafiz’ members were engaged in the vaccination drive to inoculate the targeted children at their doorstep.

On this occasion, Federal Minister for National Health Services, Regulations, and Coordination Abdul Qadir Patel said: “If we can eliminate the poliovirus from southern KP, we will succeed in eliminating polio from Pakistan altogether.”

He added, “We are actually quite close to the finish line, and we are determined to get there as soon as possible. Pakistan has made great strides in the fight against polio, with virus circulation, reduced to only one small part of the country.”

Dr Shahzad Baig, Coordinator of the National Emergency Operation Centre, emphasized that the anti-polio campaign required collective action at all levels to eradicate the poliovirus from the country. “Our aim is to ensure timely and repeated vaccination of eligible children. High-risk districts are our top priority, and we are keen to eliminate the poliovirus from the challenging areas while protecting the rest of the region as well,” he added. “I particularly urge all parents and caregivers to get their children vaccinated instead of hiding them or refusing to take the polio drops during all vaccination drives. It is important to realize that the polio virus still exists in our surroundings, and no child is safe until all children are truly vaccinated,” Dr Shahzad Baig said.

The National Emergency Operation Centre issued the ‘Sehat Tahhafuz’ Helpline 1166 and 24/7 WhatsApp Helpline 0346-777-65-46 to assist the parents and caregivers in reporting the missed children. The sources said that repeated polio vaccination campaigns were imperative for building immunity among children and protecting them from the fatal disease.