Pakistan resumes polio eradication campaign after four months


ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Monday resumed its door to door vaccinations of children against polio in high-risk districts across the country after a nearly four-month suspension due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The anti-polio campaign was relaunched amid a substantial decline in daily Covid-19 infections across Pakistan. Pakistan had halted polio campaign in the last week of March.
According to officials, during the three-day first phase of the drive, about 800,000 children under the age of five will be vaccinated.
Zulfiqar Babakhel, spokesman for Pakistan’s polio eradication program said that a set of standard operating procedures has been chalked out to be followed by the polio workers to avoid the spread of Covid-19 while carrying out their duty. “Police personnel will also be deployed to ensure the safety of the workers,” Babakhel said.
Pakistan is one of the very few countries where polio still exists. A total of 59 polio cases have been reported in the country this year, whereas 147 cases were reported in 2019.
“The door to door campaigns will also be utilized to raise awareness against coronavirus,” said Rana Mohammad Safdar, who oversees Pakistan’s polio eradication program.
Pakistan’s efforts to rid the country of polio had suffered setbacks in recent past due to attacks on vaccinators and police personnel guarding them. The deadly violence is also cited a factor for the upsurge in new cases that had dropped to only 12 cases in 2018.
In most conservative parts of the country, religious extremists see the vaccination as a Western ploy to sterilize children. Militant groups operating in these areas also condemn the drive against the disease as an effort to collect intelligence on their activities.  According to officials, attacks on polio teams have particularly increased after the Central Intelligence Agency had organized a fake vaccination campaign with the help of a local doctor, enabling the US forces to locate and kill the slain al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden in Pakistan’s Abbottabad hill-station. Ends