Pakistan has inaugurated a campaign to vaccinate millions of children against polio as coronavirus infections decline in the country.
According to officials, the five-day campaign would target more than 30 million children under the age of five.
About 223,000 front line workers will spread out across 124 of the country’s 154 districts to administer the oral drops following COVID-19 safety protocols.
According to official statistics, only one case of polio has been reported so far this year.“
“Back-to-back anti-polio drives during the COVID-19 lockdown that helped us reach maximum children in high-risk areas and improved security are behind decline in new cases,’’ a Health Ministry official told dpa.
Pakistan and Afghanistan were among only a few countries in the world where polio is still endemic.
The country came very close to eliminating polio but recorded 147 cases a five-year high in 2019 amid vaccine boycotts and attacks on health workers.
Pakistan started a polio programme in 1994 but the work of the health workers was repeatedly hampered by violent incidents by extremists.
The UN-funded drive to vaccinate children under the age of five also faces opposition from religious conservatives, who believe the vaccine administered in multiple rounds is intended to make Muslim children sterile.
The polio vaccination drive started as the country witnessed a decline in daily new infections of coronavirus and educational institutions reopen.
The ratio of coronavirus tests returning positive has dropped below four per cent this week from more than 10 per cent between April and May.
More than 900,000 people have been infected in Pakistan with 21,323 deaths so far, according to national statistics.