As many as 0.68 million children in Pakistan missed polio vaccination due to the deteriorating law and order situation and administrative issues during a three-day polio campaign in high-risk zones from July 1 to July 3 followed by a day-long catch-up activity.
The campaign, known as the Subnational Immunisation Days, aimed to target 17.4 million children of less than five years of age in 90 districts of the country.
A report compiled by the Polio Operation Room – a copy of which is available with The Express Tribune – reveals that only 60% of the targeted children were vaccinated during the drive. As many 685,661 children missed vaccination during this campaign.
“Catch-up activities are in progress and hopefully a large number of missed children will be administered to,” Dr Altaf Bosan, national coordinator for monitoring Pakistan’s polio vaccination programme, told The Express Tribune. He added that the major reason for the missed children is the fluid security situation in some parts of the country.
Minister of State for Health Saira Afzal Tarar, while chairing a high-level meeting, announced the formation of a high-powered committee with membership from all four provinces to review periodically the plans, strategies and interventions.
“It is a fact that despite advocating a strong routine immunisation, we are unable to achieve the desired immunisation. The international health agencies have also expressed concerns that we have not been able to protect our children against vaccine preventable diseases,” she said.
On the other hand, vaccination teams report that 40,971 children did not receive polio drops in their routine immunisation after childbirth.
DESIGN: ESSA MALIK
Vaccination teams could not target 23,335 children in Frontier Region Peshawar because of the volatile security situation in the area. In the Jani Khel, Hindi Khel and Sain Tanga areas of Frontier Region Bannu, 12,099 children were supposed to be inoculated. But the campaign was postponed due to the poor security situation.
In North and South Waziristan agencies, vaccination teams have no access to more than 260,000 children since June 2012. Taliban insurgents have banned polio vaccination in part of the two agencies calling anti-polio campaigns a ploy to spy on the militants in the region.
In Charsadda district, the campaign was postponed due to security issues. Peshawar missed the immunisation campaigns scheduled in May and June 2013 due to attacks on vaccinators. There is persistent isolation of poliovirus in the environmental samples collected from Peshawar.
In Jaffarabad, Killa Abdullah, Nasirabad and Pishin districts, the immunisation campaign could not kick off due to administrative issues where 526,339 children were to be inoculated. On the other hand, the campaign in Quetta was crippled by a lady health workers’ strike.
The sub-national campaign in six districts of Punjab – Chiniot, Jhang, Kasur, Okara, Sheikhupura and Toba Tek Singh – will start on July 7. As many as 1.9 million children under five years of age will be vaccinated during the drive.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 6th, 2013.