Anti-polio drive targeting 4.96m children begins in Karachi, Hyderabad.

KARACHI -- A week-long polio immunisation drive targeting 4.96 million children was launched across Karachi and Hyderabad on Monday.

The campaign, part of the national immunisation days, had been delayed in the two divisions due to local bodies' elections.

According to officials representing the Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) for polio in Sindh, an estimated 4,967,244 children under five years of age would receive oral polio drops along with vitamin A capsules during the campaign ending on Jan 29.

'Around 27,000 polio workers and staff along with 3,000 security personnel have been deployed to ensure smooth running of the drive in the seven and nine districts of Karachi and Hyderabad, respectively,' the official said.

Dr Khalid Shafi of the Pakistan Paediatric Association described Sindh's situation as encouraging.

'There hasn't been a single polio case in Sindh since July 2020 while Landhi, the only area in Sindh reporting a positive environmental sample last year, has now been tested negative,' he recalled.

Experts call for more focus on community participation

The governments at the federal and provincial levels, he said, were doing everything humanly possible and polio clusters had been contained.

'The South Khyber Pakhunkhwa, specifically the areas of Waziristan and Lakki Marwat, are the only polio-affected areas left in the country. People's movement is high from these areas which explain the disease's spread to other areas.'

Dr Shafi emphasised that polio virus' circulation needed to be stopped for elimination of the crippling disease.

'There are factors beyond science in the affected areas which need to be addressed.'

As for the country's low vaccination coverage, he regretted that this situation prevailed in a country with ample vaccine stocks and a system for delivery.

'What we lack is the community's active participation. There should be sustained awareness campaigns that can make people understand the importance of childhood immunisation. In the cases of polio, the message should be loud and clear...

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