Education dept directed to tell schools to help vaccinate children

KARACHI: Not a single case of polio has been reported in Sindh so far this year.

This was stated by Caretaker Chief Minister Fazalur Rehman while presiding over a provincial task force meeting on polio at the Chief Minister House on Monday.

He commended the polio eradication officers, front line workers as well as security personnel who have been instrumental in curtailing the spread of polio virus in Karachi.

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The meeting was attended by the health minister, chief secretary, secretaries for health, finance, home, education and literacy, principal secretary to the CM, Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) for Polio in Sindh Technical Coordinator Shahnaz Wazir Ali, EOC Coordinator Fayaz Jatoi, EOC Focal Person Dr Ahmad Ali Shaikh, Mayor Wasim Akhtar, Commissioner Muhammad Sualeh Ahmad Farooqi, EOC National Technical Focal Person Dr Altaf Bossan, the Karachi additional inspector-general and team leads from the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund and World Health Organisation (WHO). Commissioners from rural Sindh joined the meeting through a video link.

Jatoi briefed the CM on the progress made in polio eradication in Sindh and Pakistan. He highlighted that there were 306 polio cases reported in Pakistan in 2014, out of which 30 were reported from Sindh, including 23 from Karachi, but constant efforts and government ownership of the programme resulted in the figure decreasing to eight polio cases reported across Pakistan in 2017, out of which two were from Karachi.

In 2018, so far, no polio cases have been reported in Sindh, however, three cases have surfaced in Pakistan – all three from Dukki district in Balochistan, Jatoi shared. He explained that the creation of the EOCs resulted in better management of the programme, while the strategy of community-based vaccination yielded good results.

Jatoi, however, emphasised that even though there had been no reported cases of polio, efforts to eradicate the virus must continue as it kept on surfacing from time to time.

On the issue of refusals, the CM was informed that most refusals were because of repeated campaigns and misconceptions and the EOC was engaging with the communities to convert them. He said that following an incident in Nawabshah, there was a spike in refusals but things were slowly going back to normal.

Jatoi requested the CM to provide support in making schools accept vaccinations during polio drives, especially in District West where the number of refusals from schools had increased. To this, the CM directed the education department to issue a notification to urge schools to welcome polio teams in administering vaccines to students.

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Ali told the gathering that the polio programme in Pakistan started in 1994 and was inaugurated by Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, who vaccinated her own children to mark the occasion. She said that the structures in the health care system had strengthened with time and “we are now in the last mile of polio eradication.”

Health Minister Dr Sadia Rizwi said she was impressed with the polio programme’s structure and the relentless efforts of all those involved in bringing down the case count in the province.

WHO’s federal team lead informed the meeting that every child, regardless of their economic background and routine immunisation status, must be vaccinated during every campaign in order to eradicate polio from the country.

Shazia was on her way to administer polio drops to children in Nawan Killi area when she came under attack

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