Over 21m children to be vaccinated in March polio campaign

A Polio vaccination campaign to immunize more than 21.54 million children under the age of five will kick off in Sindh and Punjab on March 13 (Monday).

The five-day vaccination campaign is being held in two phases due to the concurring activities of the seventh national census.

In the first phase, over 17.41 million children under the age of five in 13 districts of Punjab and 16 districts of Sindh and Islamabad will be vaccinated from March 13 to March 17.

The second phase will be held from April 03 to 07 – during the second week of Ramadan – to vaccinate more than 4.12 million children in 12 districts of Balochistan and 26 districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, including the seven endemic districts in the southern region of the province.

Federal Minister for Health Abdul Qadir Patel urged parents and caregivers to ensure that their children receive the life-saving polio vaccine so that they remain protected from poliovirus, which has been found circulating in environmental samples.

“The presence of wild polio in the environment shows that the virus is circulating in our communities and posing a serious risk to our children,” said Abdul Qadir Patel, the Minister.

“With Ramadan and Eid around the corner, population movements can increase the risk of further spread, therefore, it is critical that parents and caregivers vaccinate their children in this and every campaign,” said the Minister.

“We have specifically designed this March campaign to reach areas where population movement is not just frequent but also expected during Ramadan and Eid festival,” said Dr Shahzad Baig, National Emergency Operations Center.

“It is essential that we reach as many children as possible with the vaccine now to curb polio transmission,” he added.

No human case has been reported in Pakistan since September 2022 when a polio outbreak paralyzed 20 children – all of them in southern KP districts.

Wild poliovirus was detected for the first time this year in sewage samples collected from two separate sites in Lahore in January.

Two more samples have since then tested positive for polio – wild polio has been detected in a sample collected from D.I.Khan and variant poliovirus has been detected from Ghotki.

The polio programme has taken all out efforts to ensure vaccination of children to keep them safe from this highly infectious disease in the context of positive environmental samples detected in some places.

The Sehat Tahhafuz Helpline 1166 and 24/7 WhatsApp Helpline 0346-777-65-46 will be available to assist parents and caregivers in reporting missed children and providing related information.

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