Pakistan resumes polio vaccination after suspending drive over Covid-19

Islamabad, Jul 20 (efe-epa).- Pakistan resumed its polio vaccination campaign on Monday, after the immunization program was suspended four months ago due to the coronavirus crisis.

Some 32,000 people will be a part of the campaign to administer polio drops to children under the age of five, especially in the regions where the prevalence of the virus is very high, such as Karachi (south) and Quetta (west), spokesperson of the country’s polio eradication program, Mohamed Safdar, told EFE.

The vaccination campaign was stalled in Pakistan towards the end of March due to the coronavirus epidemic, which has so far caused a total of 260,312 confirmed infections and 5,599 deaths in the country.

This suspension in the program has resulted in the country “facing widespread circulation of virus” that causes polio, according to a statement by the country’s polio program.

“We could not wait more. Children could not be put at risk with illness that could have a lifetime impact on their lives,” said Safdar.

The program now seeks to achieve a target of administering drops to 800,000 children in three days.

Thus, the vaccination teams will be required to take preventive measures against contracting the novel coronavirus, such as wearing masks, using appropriate products for sanitizing hands and having their temperature monitored at regular intervals.

Moreover, they will maintain a certain distance from the families of the children, and it will be the parents who will open their mouths to administer the drops.

Pakistan is the global epicenter of polio with 59 cases recorded so far this year.

In 2019, it recorded 147 cases, accounting for 83 percent of the total infections recorded in the world during the year.

Several people in Pakistan consider vaccination to be against Islamic practices, and some even fear that the anti-polio campaign was part of a west-hatched conspiracy to control birth rates of Muslims by causing infertility with vaccinations.

Thus, is common to hear about attacks by radical Islamists on health workers working in the immunization drive.

Around the end of January, two polio workers were shot dead in the town of Parmoli in the Swab district in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

In February, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for eradication of polio from the country and expressed confidence that it was possible.

Neighboring Afghanistan is another country where polio remains endemic. EFE-EPA


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