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Pakistan Resumes Polio Vaccination Campaign Amid Covid-19 Pandemic

Representative image.

Representative image.

Pakistan on February 17 launched a countrywide anti-polio campaign to vaccinate about 39.6 million children under the age of five as the government appealed to the people for their support to eradicate polio.

Pakistan launched a special five-day anti-polio campaign on Monday in selected districts across the country to vaccinate children against the crippling disease, four months after the drive was suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak, officials said.

Pakistan on February 17 launched a countrywide anti-polio campaign to vaccinate about 39.6 million children under the age of five as the government appealed to the people for their support to eradicate polio. However, it was put on hold after the country recorded its first coronavirus case in February.

In Punjab province, the anti-polio drive was launched in 44 union councils of Faisalabad and 14 union councils of Attock. In Karachi, the drive would target Baldia, Orangi, North Nazimabad and Liaquatabad, according to officials of the National Institute of Health.

In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the campaign would focus on the South Waziristan district, while in Balochistan the drive would cover 10 Union Councils of Quetta, the provincial capital.

Special arrangements were made to provide security to the anti-polio campaign teams.

Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria are the three countries in the world where polio is still endemic.

This year so far 59 new cases have been reported. Last year, 147 polio cases were reported nationwide, far higher than 12 in 2018 and eight in 2017.

Prime Minister Imran Khan in December last said that it was a "matter of shame" that Pakistan was among the countries where polio was still prevalent.

Attempts to eradicate the disease have been seriously hampered by deadly targeting of vaccination teams in recent years by militants, who oppose the drives, claiming the polio drops cause infertility.

Attacks on immunisation teams have claimed nearly 70 lives since December 2012.

Last month, Pakistan's Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa told billionaire philanthropist and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates that despite the COVID-19 outbreak, the country will restart the anti-polio campaign in the coming weeks and the military will support the government's efforts.

first published:July 20, 2020, 17:10 IST