Turning point: Major drop seen in polio cases

Though much has been done, state minister says battle far from over.

Agencies/sehrish Wasif June 04, 2015
Major drop in polio cases. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is now on course to ending the spread of polio virus, a senior government official said on Thursday after the World Health Organisation released data confirming an overall drop in Polio cases in the country.

Elias Durry, WHO’s senior coordinator for polio eradication in Pakistan, said intensive vaccination efforts were paying off.

“Compared to last year, this year polio cases in Pakistan have been 70 per cent decreased,” Durry said. “In 2013 and 2014 the programme was under pressure, but in 2015 the virus is under pressure.”

There have been 24 cases since January 1, a decline of over 70 per cent from the same period last year, when there were 84 cases.

“We have come a long way since the explosive outbreak of 2014 and much has been done to change the complexion of the polio eradication drive in the country,” Minister for National Health Services Saira Afzal Tarar said in a statement.

But the minister acknowledged that the government is mindful of the fact that there is still a “considerable distance” to cover. “We hope to achieve our goals in polio eradication, with strengthened monitoring, effective coordination and support of our partners,” Tarar added.

Durry said the main reason for the fall in cases was better access to families in previously unvaccinated areas, where troops have been advancing.

Fresh strategy

The government has proposed a new strategy to the members of the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) for polio. The TAG meeting was held on Thursday to review overall performance and suggest future strategies to control the spread of polio virus.

The plan suggested supplementary immunisation activities in high-risk zones should be reduced to nine per year. This is important to maintain and sustain the quality of anti-polio drives.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 5th, 2015. 


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