Thursday, September 23, 2021

Pakistan launches anti-polio campaign in spite of C0VID-19 threat

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Rayyan Alhassan is a graduate of Journalism and Mass Communication at Sikkim Manipal University, Ghana. He is the acting Managing Editor at the Daily Nigerian newspaper, a position he has held for the past 3 years. He can be reached via [email protected], or, or @Rayyan88 on Twitter.
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Pakistan on Monday launched a campaign to vaccinate millions of children against polio, in spite of the risks posed by climbing Coronavirus infections.

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The campaign will target more than 23 million children under the age of 5.

Around 179,000 front-line workers will spread out across 50 districts to administer the oral drops, following COVID-19 safety protocols.

The drive had already started on July 30 in 18 districts in the north-western province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where many Islamic clerics still oppose vaccination, calling it a western conspiracy to sterilize Muslim children.

“Vaccination campaign amid a new surge in Coronavirus cases is aimed at keeping up with immunity of the children against the crippling disease,’’ a senior Health Ministry official said.

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According to official statistics, only one case of polio has been reported so far this year.

Pakistan and Afghanistan are 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.

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The UN-funded drive to vaccinate children under the age of 5 also faces opposition from religious conservatives, who believe the vaccine, administered in multiple rounds, is intended to make Muslim children sterile.

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Pakistan is currently facing a fourth wave of the Coronavirus pandemic and a surge of new infections dominated by the Delta variant, putting renewed pressure on the country’s weak health care system. (dpa/NAN)


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