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EDITORIAL: A five-day polio eradication drive kicked off on Monday. During this time some 16. 5 million children are to be vaccinated across the country. This is the fifth such campaign in the current year. Meanwhile, four children have been reported to be struck by poliovirus during the last five months. It has been detected in several sewage samples.

According to the Regional Reference Laboratory for Polio Eradication at the National Institute of Health, five environmental samples collected between May 9 and May 15 from Karachi East and Central, Kohat and Quetta, Dera Bugti, Chaman and Killa Abdullah were found to contain the virus.

And a recent meeting of the Technical Advisory Group for polio eradication held in Doha was informed that 44 districts in Pakistan were affected by the virus since the group’s last meeting in June 2023. The virus in all these samples is said to be linked to the YB3A WPV1 genetic cluster, which had disappeared from Pakistan in 2021 but not from the neighbouring Afghanistan, leading to cross-border transmission.

Since the start of the Polio Eradication Programme three decade ago, it has been a story of one step forward and two steps back. In recent years, Pakistan has regularly been carrying out vaccination campaigns making significant progress in reducing the incidence of this debilitating and preventable disease.

But eliminating the virus remains an enduring challenge owing to multiple factors, including a general mistrust of the vaccine, which often leads to fierce resistance. Scores of health workers and their police escorts have been shot dead by violent extremists.

Yet thanks to the brave workers, the routine immunisation drives go on uninterrupted along with awareness campaigns through the media. Local clerics and other religious leaders also need to be enlisted to engender people’s confidence and trust in vaccination.

Considering the transmission of WPVI strain of virus from across the border, the government should have a conversation with the Kabul government. During a recent visit to discuss strategies to eradicate polio with our government, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative also suggested reaching out to migrant populations in infected and high-risk districts, an approach that, it said, had yielded positive results in India, where vaccination efforts focused on thoroughly mapped migrant populations.

What needs to be done to banish the scourge that has earned this country the unsavoury distinction of being one of the two countries in the world where polio is endemic has been clearly enunciated. Covering the last mile calls for sustained and determined effort by the government and the National Polio Eradication Programme in cooperation with its international partners.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

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Fatima Jun 09, 2024 05:54am
We earn millions a year from polio eradication schemes, there is no desire to see this end
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KU Jun 09, 2024 10:34am
This is a perfect example of our lies on education across the country, resulting in unawareness on health issues. Besides, quacks exploit and destroy lives all over Pakistan, yet no law stops them.
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Arsalan Jun 10, 2024 03:54am
@Fatima, ur right Fatima. its from bill gates and u know how sincere he is with mankind, especially with 4th worth countries. these vaccines r the opposite what they declare it is for but v r helpless
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