2nd phase of anti-polio drive begins in Balochistan, KP

The second phase of a five-day polio vaccination drive started on Monday to vaccinate more than 4.12 million children in 12 districts of Balochistan and 26 districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

According to official sources, the polio vaccination teams will also visit seven endemic districts in the southern region of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa to immunize children. They said that the government has successfully completed the first phase of polio vaccination campaign to immunize more than 17.41 million children under the age of five years in Sindh and Punjab.

The five-day vaccination campaign was 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 were vaccinated from March 13 to 17.

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.

“During Ramazan, 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,” the minister said. “We have specifically designed this March campaign to reach areas where population movement is not just frequent but also expected during Ramazan 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 efforts to ensure the 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.