Around 38% children under the age of 12 months missed routine immunisation in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa in 2015. Only 473,990 of 758,984 children were fully immunised in 2015 stated a document from the health ministry, a copy of which is available with The Express Tribune.
At least 16 out of 25 districts had below 70% coverage.The children were immunised against diphtheria, tetanus, tuberculosis, pertussis, polio, meningitis, hepatitis B, influenza and measles.
According to the data, authorities met approximately 90% of their target in only two districts – Swabi and Swat. Around 50,162 out of 53,852 children, roughly 93%, were immunised in the latter.
A shot in the dark
The lowest coverage—under 25%—was seen in Kohistan, Torghar, Tank and Lakki Marwat.
Only 737 out of 20,236 children were immunised in Kohistan, 1,097 out of 7,480 in Torghar and 1,711 of 10,201 children were immunised in Tank. Approximately 23% children below 12 months of age were immunised in Lakki Marwat.
Even with all available resources, Peshawar’s coverage stood below 65%. In total, 55,507 out of 86,460 children, around 64%, were immunised in the district.
Close by, in Nowshera, only 39% children were immunised.
The coverage for Malakand was 89%, Mansehra 85%, Battagram 77%, Buner 75%, Lower Dir 74%, Abbottabad 72%, Haripur 72%, Upper Dir 41%, Hangu 43%, Kohat 49%, Shangla 49%, Bannu 50%, DI Khan 53%, Chitral 53%, Karak 57%, Charsadda 60% and Mardan 62%.
When asked, Expanded Programme for Immunization Assistant Director Dr Taimur Shah said there were several reasons why all children could not be immunised. He added the core issue was EPI vaccinators were involved in polio campaigns – a crippling disease which is yet to be eradicated in Pakistan.
“Usually we hear a four day polio campaign is launched but that’s not all as days before the campaign, vaccinators go for training,” Shah told The Express Tribune. “Then after the campaign, vaccinators follow up with missing children.” He added, “With vaccinators spread so thin, its hard to focus on all vaccine preventable diseases equally.”
He said as per national guidelines, two vaccinators must work in every union council. Shah added, 1,327 vaccinators were working in 1,040 union councils across the province – closer to a 1:1 ratio than the required 2:1.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 28th, 2016.