Islamabad: Pakistan on Monday launched a massive nationwide anti-polio vaccination drive touted as the final push against the crippling disease to cover 38.6 million children under five years of age.
The drive will last for three days but a 2-5 day catchup campaign will be launched following the initial drive so that no one was left out.
Dr Rana Safdar, chief of anti-polio campaign, said that the campaign has started in all parts of Pakistan.
However, he said that the campaign in two of the districts — Sheikhupura in Punjab and Orakzai I Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa– will begin from September 25.
“The programme will target a total of 38.6 million under five children,” he said.
A country must have no cases for three consecutive years in order to be considered to have eradicated polio by the World Health Organisation.
Pakistan is one of only three countries in the world, along with Afghanistan and Nigeria, that suffers from endemic polio, a virus that can cause paralysis or death.
Safdar said that Vitamin-A supplement will also be administered to around 35 million children aged between 6-59 months along-with OPV aimed at boosting immunity against all infectious diseases including Measles.
The drive is the first nationwide door to door national campaign of 2018-19 low transmission season.
A total of 260,000 personnel will strive to achieve the set targets across Pakistan and will be assisted by 40 experts to facilitate preparedness by the local teams in priority areas.
Safdar said Pakistan was “closest ever to its goal” of eliminating the crippling disease and “started its final push towards interruption of Polio Virus”.
In 2018, only four polio cases have so far been reported from two districts, including three from Dukki and one from Charsadda.
The government support and cooperation of communities and parents has been imperative in Pakistan’s recent successes actualising a case decline from highs of 306 in 2014 to 54 in 2015 to 20 in 2016 and 8 in 2017, he said