Islamabad - Three-day nationwide anti-polio campaign started off yesterday to administer vaccine to 36.8 million children.

The drive held smoothly on the first day in all areas except Swabi, which will start from March 21. The campaign was also delayed in some snowbound union councils of Chitral, Skardu and Astore.

In this campaign the children will also be administered 33.12 million additional doses of vitamin A to boost their immunity level, as around 50 percent children in Pakistan are deficient in vitamin A and other micronutrients. This year six children were paralysed in Pakistan due to polio and five of them had contracted the virus despite the administration of multiple vaccine doses because of malnutrition. Only one child had contracted the virus because of refusal to vaccine by the parents.

Pakistan is two campaigns away from interrupting the poliovirus circulation as out of 9 campaigns planned from September 2015 to May 2016, seven has been held. The country now needs two successful countrywide campaigns along with an additional campaign for 1 million identified malnourished children living in impoverished areas to end polio by May 2016, according to national emergency action plan.

The additional campaign will be held in selected union councils of Karachi, Quetta and Peshawar in April wherein one million children will be administered inactivated polio vaccine along with oral polio vaccine, said Dr Rana Safdar, National Coordinator of Emergency Operation Centre.

In Islamabad to review the preparedness of the campaign a meeting of Islamabad Task Force for Polio Eradication consisting of Capital Development Authority (CDA) and Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) officials was held. Minister of State for Capital Administration & Development Division (CA&DD), Dr Tariq Fazal Chaudhry who chaired the meeting warned of stern action if any polio case found in Islamabad that has been polio free for the last eight years.

He directed the officials to adopt zero tolerance policy against polio in the whole country, especially in Islamabad.

Prime Minister’s Focal Person on Polio Eradication Senator Aysha Raza, Chief Commissioner Islamabad, CDA, I CT and EOC officials were also present in the meeting. The minister of state was briefed during the meeting that not a single case of poliovirus has been detected in Islamabad Capital Territory since 2008.

Dr Tariq Fazal Chaudhry warned that if any case of polio detected in Islamabad strict action would be taken against those found guilty. Close coordination and cooperation among the relevant departments like ICT, CDA, and all other departments is essential for effective campaign, he continued.

He directed that most efficient and capable teams be depute in high-risk areas. He also directed that during polio campaigns, coordination meeting of all relevant departments be held on daily basis to review the progress on the campaign.