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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is to vaccinate more than 44.3 million children under five years of age during the first nationwide polio vaccination campaign of 2024 which kicked off on Monday.

During the nationwide five-day-long campaign, over 44.3 million children under five years of age constituting approximately 19 percent of the national population will be given oral polio drops. The drive will continue until January 12.

According to the Ministry of National Health Services and Regulations, the children in Lakki Marwat and South Waziristan Upper and Lower will be vaccinated from January 15–19, while the campaign will be held in Tank from January 15–21 and in DI Khan from January 22–28.

The ministry data said that more than 400,000 vaccinators will bring the vaccine to children’s doorstep. In Punjab, 22.6 million children will be vaccinated, while 10.3 million children in Sindh, 7.5 million children in KP, 2.6 million children in Balochistan, 0.72 million children in AJK, 0.28 million children in GB, and 0.42 million children in Islamabad.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over the past 35 years in a bid to eradicate polio worldwide more than 10 billion doses of the oral polio vaccine have been given to children worldwide since 1988.

The WHO said that at present, the world is left with a small number of children in only two countries, at most 250,000 – 300,000 of persistently missed children in two provinces in eastern Afghanistan and seven districts in southern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) of Pakistan.

Dr Shahzad Baig, coordinator of the National Emergency Operations Center for Polio Eradication, urged parents to open their doors to vaccinators so their children can receive this essential vaccine. “Polio has no cure. It is a devastating disease that affects not just individual children but also changes the lives of the whole family,” he said.

“The polio vaccine offers protection from this disease and the chance for children to live up to their potential. So, I urge parents and caregivers countrywide to take every opportunity you get to vaccinate your children against polio.”

Meanwhile, Chairman of the Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC) Hafiz Muhammad Tahir Mahmood Ashrafi who is also Special Representative of the Prime Minister for Religious Harmony while supporting the nationwide polio drive and urging the people to vaccinate their children against polio has strongly condemned the terrorist assault targeting police officials safeguarding polio workers in Bajaur district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

He emphasized that antagonistic forces within Pakistan are obstructing the country’s efforts to eliminate polio. Ashrafi expressed hope that these adversaries will not achieve their malicious goals, and he believes that the sacrifices made by security personnel will eventually yield positive outcomes.

Ashrafi emphasized the need for a robust nationwide awareness campaign on polio, highlighting the government’s unwavering commitment to the success of this initiative. He expressed confidence that due to the concrete measures implemented by the government, polio will soon be eradicated from Pakistan.

Ashrafi commended the bravery and dedication of polio workers operating in remote regions, along with the security personnel collaborating with them.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

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