LAHORE: Health experts have recommended enhancing measles vaccination in Lahore and Rawalpindi as Punjab prepares to commemorate World Immunization Week, 2023 from April 24 to 30.

Public health experts and academia in the Steering Committee here at the Emergency Operations Center, reviewed surveillance data and plan outbreak response from across the province.

The meeting was chaired by Director General Health Services Punjab Dr Ilyas Gondal and attended by ex-chairman National Immunization Technical Advisory Group Professor Tariq Iqbal Bhutta, Professor of Pediatrics from University of Child Health Sciences Professor Dr Junaid Rashid, renowned researcher Professor Dr Shakila Zaman, Head of MCH Department Institute of Public Health Professor Dr Rukhsana Hameed, President Pakistan Academy of Family Physicians Dr Tariq Mian, Director IRMNCH Programme Dr Khalil Ahmed Sakhani, Director EPI Dr Mukhtar Ahmed, Director CDC & EPC Dr Yadullah, WHO Technical Officer Dr Imran Qureshi, WHO Polio Team Lead Punjab Dr Amir Ihsan (OIC), UNICEF Immunization Officer Dr Quratul Ain, Technical Focal Person Gates Foundation Dr Naeem Majeed, representatives of Chief Minister Roadmap team and senior officials from District Health Authority Lahore.

Director General Health Punjab, Dr Ilyas Gondal said: “We have deployed resources based on measles surveillance data in selected Union Councils of Lahore and Rawalpindi. In sync with the theme of the World Immunization Week this year, EPI Punjab has already started the large-scale Integrated Outreach Activity to vaccinate each and every child in the province except Lahore.

The activity is being carried out throughout the month of April 2023 with the technical and financial support of the WHO.

Areas reporting more cases are in spotlight. This is an excellent catch-up vaccination opportunity to cover Zero Dose Children/Communities & Defaulters, Higher age group children missing vaccination, ensure Covid-19 Vaccination and administer OPV to Still Missed Children.”

Director EPI Dr Mukhtar Ahmed said: “Vaccines are the most cost effective Public Health Intervention ever introduced in human history. By arranging the IOA alongside World Immunization Week 2023, we are complementing Demand Generation with improved Service Delivery. Currently 4486 vaccinators with as many social mobilizers are carrying out the activity in 3407 Union Councils of the province. There are 586 supervisors engaged in the activity which include DHO-PS, EPI Focal Persons, DSVs and ASVs.”

The EPI Punjab proposed revisions in the vaccination schedule based on the data available. Ex-chairman NITAG assured full support to Punjab if the case is supplemented with more evidence. The plan for the World Immunization Week came under review as Punjab looks to improve awareness on the role of vaccines in saving lives.

Technical Officer WHO Dr Imran Qureshi presented disease surveillance data and shared that due to a robust surveillance system, Punjab was picking more cases from all corners of the province. Measles Risk Assessment tool is used to anticipate and determine district at risk in order to plan mitigation interventions, he added.

Dr Tariq Mian described the opportunity to establish more fixed EPI centers in potential private sector hospitals through public private partnerships.

Prof Dr Junaid Rashid highlighted the importance to establish dedicated infectious diseases hospital in the province to enable better healthcare while curtailing the spread of infectious agents.

Prof Dr Shakila Zaman highlighted the importance of research and development to enable programme using evidence based decision making.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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