As many as 6.1 million children in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) will be vaccinated in the three-day anti-polio campaign which started on Monday.
A total of 16,600 teams in K-P and 3,000 teams in Fata have been formed to administer the vaccination campaign.
These teams are being assisted by lady health workers and officials of the health department.
The campaign was inaugurated by K-P Health Minister Zahir Ali Shah and Deputy Director Dr Janbaz Afridi.
Afridi urged parents to bring their children to the nearest hospitals or basic health units in case the teams failed to visit their place.
He said Peshawar, Charsadda, Nowshera, Mardan, Lakki Marwat, DI Khan, Tank, Kohat and Fata are still vulnerable to the crippling disease.
He also directed district coordination officers and political agents to monitor the campaigns and take strict actions against parents refusing to get their children vaccinated.
Earlier this month, World Health Organisation warned the K-P government that the risk of the spread of polio virus from Bara Tehsil of Khyber Agency to other areas is imminent.
The letter pointed out that Bara is the only place in Asia where type-3 polio cases showed up in 2011 and this year. It added that the situation was an extraordinary one and therefore required extraordinary steps.
According to the letter, almost all parts of Bara have had no vaccination campaigns since September 2009, which has caused the most prolonged outbreak of polio cases ever seen in Pakistan.
There were 18 polio cases reported from Bara in 2010, 16 in 2011 and four in 2012 so far.
Though K-P is considered to be progressing in the right direction for implementing the Augmented National Emergency Action Plan for polio eradication, immunity gaps remain in populations on the move, such as internally displaced persons from Fata. The four polio cases in 2012 so far are associated with these groups.
(With additional input by APP)
Published in The Express Tribune, April 24th, 2012.