pakistan polio-1653724397487
A health worker administers a polio vaccine to a child in a neighborhood of Lahore, on May 23, 2022. Image Credit: AP

Islamabad: Two more wild polio cases have been confirmed from North Waziristan, leaving young boy and a girl paralyzed, health officials have confirmed.

According to them, both children are 18-months old and belong to Mir Ali. The female child had onset of paralysis on May 10 and the male child on May 11.

Both cases were confirmed by the Pakistan National Polio Laboratory at the National Institute of Health, Islamabad.

This is the sixth case in North Waziristan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, this year. “These children will struggle for the rest of their lives because of the pain of disabilities caused by polio. I urge the people of Pakistan to vaccinate your children,” said Federal Health Minister Abdul Qadir Patel.

The southern districts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa that include North and South Waziristan, D.I.Khan, Bannu, Tank and Lakki Marwat, are at highest risk of wild polio virus. While no human transmission has been reported outside North Waziristan, two positive environmental samples between April and May were reported from Bannu. “All children suffering from wild polio are being offered rehabilitation services but regardless of the support the government provides, there is cure to polio. The only way to protect children is to give them repeated doses of the polio vaccine,” said Federal Health Secretary Aamir Ashraf Khawaja.

All children confirmed with wild polio this year belong to North Waziristan, where more cases are expected due to high refusal rates and instances of finger-marking without vaccination during campaigns.

“The Pakistan Polio Programme has conducted emergency campaigns in the area, while children are administered the vaccine at all entry and exit points from southern KP to control the spread of the virus,” said Dr Shahzad Baig, Coordinator, National Emergency Operations Centre. “The programme is working relentlessly to control the spread of wild polio, but we need the support of parents and caregivers to succeed in our mission of a polio-free Pakistan.” The only two endemic countries in the world, Pakistan and Afghanistan, synchronized immunization campaigns from May 23 to May 27, vaccinating millions of children on both sides of the border.

Nationwide drive continues

Meanwhile, nationwide campaign continued to immunize over 43 million children under five years of age.

According to the spokesperson of the Ministry of Health, over 339,521 trained and dedicated polio workers have been engaged in the drive to vaccinate children at their doorstep.

He said that previous campaigns were limited to some areas but this campaign has been launched countrywide.

Qadir Patel said: “Government of Pakistan remains committed to eradicating polio and focusing on well-coordinated efforts at both the federal and provincial level to realize the dream of making Pakistan a polio-free country.”

He stressed the important role of parents and caregivers in the success of repeated vaccination campaigns.

He said, “It’s every Pakistani’s national duty to ensure that their own children, as well as children around them, are administered the polio vaccine in each campaign.” He said”The wild poliovirus remains in the environment in certain districts, posing a threat to the resurgence in cases.”

“We are calling all parents and caregivers to cooperate with vaccinators as no child is safe until all children are vaccinated.” He said”Polio vaccine is safe, and it helps to build immunity among children against the poliovirus. The polio vaccination campaigns are imperative for building immunity among children and preventing possible death or lifelong paralysis,” he added. He said, “Unvaccinated children are at risk and we need to ensure all eligible children are vaccinated during each campaign to build their immunity against diseases. Its time to be more vigilant to reach the target of polio-free Pakistan.”

Pakistan detected its first polio case on April 22 after over a year. It is one of two countries, alongside neighbouring Afghanistan, where polio remains endemic, although case numbers have dropped drastically in recent years.