Pakistan launched the year's third and last nationwide polio vaccination drive today with the aim to reach over 39 million children. Image Credit: Supplied

Islamabad: Pakistan on Monday launched the latest nationwide polio vaccination drive with the aim to reach over 39 million children under the age of five across the country.

This is the third nationwide anti-polio campaign during the current year. During the first drive in February 2020, at least 39.6 million children were vaccinated. The second immunization campaign in September 2020 reached a little over 39 million children.

Despite the second wave of coronavirus raging in Pakistan, as many as 285,000 polio frontline workers will go from door to door to vaccinate the children during the five-day national immunization drive from November 30 to December 4.

The vaccination team will visit house-to-house, strictly observing COVID-19 health guidelines such as use of masks and sanitizers and maintaining a safe distance, to ensure the protection of Pakistani children from the crippling poliovirus while keeping both the frontline workers and parents safe.

Pakistan polio-free

Dr. Faisal Sultan, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health, said the “government is committed to make Pakistan polio-free.” Timely and repeated vaccination is critical to protect the children from the crippling disease and “reduce the immunity gap in children which had unfortunately widened because of disruption of essential services due to COVID-19 pandemic”, Dr Sultan said during the inauguration of the lates anti-polio campaign. Urging all parents and caregivers to ensure polio vaccination, he said: “I am confident, together we will achieve our target of making a safer, healthier and polio-free Pakistan for our children.”

Dr. Rana Muhammad Safdar, the coordinator of the national emergency centre, Polio Eradication Initiative (PEI), says, “We need to ensure that no child is missed during this critical national immunization campaign”. While continuing efforts to enhance essential immunization coverage across country, “back-to-back planned immunization campaigns are imperative to give quick immunity boost to children under the age of five.”

Dr Rana urged every Pakistani to consider the polio vaccination campaign as “a national mission” and fully support the frontline workers so that “no child remains at risk of contracting polio disease and getting paralysed for life.

Polio in Pakistan

• Pakistan is one of the two polio-endemic countries in the world along with its neighbour Afghanistan.

• The country is currently is facing a challenging situation in polio eradication as the number of cases are surging.

• A total of 82 polio cases have been reported in 2020 so far while the total number of cases reported in 2019 cases remains 147.

• Polio is a highly infectious mainly affecting children under the age of five. It attacks the nervous system and can cause paralysis or even death. Vaccination is the most effective way to protect children, as the virus has no cure.