Eradicating polio in Pakistan by reaching every child with polio vaccines
Pakistan is one of three remaining polio-endemic countries in the world, along with Afghanistan and Nigeria. However, since the launch of the Pakistan’s Polio Eradication Programme in 1994, there has been a massive decline in polio cases in Pakistan from approximately 20,000 every year in the early 1990s to only eight cases in 2018.
As long as the virus continues to circulate in Pakistan, no child in Pakistan is completely safe from contracting the polio virus. This is why it is the shared responsibility of all Pakistanis ensure that all vulnerable children under the age of five are vaccinated against this deadly disease in every door-to-door campaign.
Pakistan has made important progress towards stopping poliovirus transmission in the country. Case numbers are the lowest they have ever been, while immunity gaps among children continue to decline. An array of approaches and tools are implemented to help Pakistan reach the finish line of zero polio cases. These approaches and tools are outlined in the National Emergency Action Plan of the Pakistan Polio Eradication Programme (NEAP) with specific objectives, targets, milestones and indicators that guide the programme to its goal of zero-polio. As envisioned in the NEAP 2018/19, the programme will implement an intense vaccination schedule to ensure maximum vaccination coverage of vulnerable children. As per this schedule, 5 Nationwide Immunization Campaigns are planned for the months of September, November and December of 2018 as well as in January and April of 2019. Meanwhile, smaller scale Sub-National Immunization Campaigns in selected districts will be held in the months of July, August and November of 2018, and later in March and June of 2019.
Highlights of key interventions to ensure every child is vaccinated against polio
- Highest commitment from the Government, with the programme’s senior official reporting directly to the Prime Minister
- High quality vaccination campaigns that reach the most vulnerable children in every corner of the country, boosting population immunity;
- Dedicated and highly committed frontline workers who routinely vaccinate children nationwide;
- Enhanced surveillance, detection and response capacity of the programme;
- Efficiently managed operations through government oversight and the “one team under one roof” operational approach as per the creation of Emergency Operation Centres at provincial and federal levels;
- Greater coordination with counterparts in Afghanistan to synchronize aspects of programme operations and management.
Meanwhile, the Pakistan Polio Eradication Programme continues to vaccinate children who are travelling or on the move through 500 permanent transit points (PTPs) across all major transit points nationwide. These PTPs are set up along country and district borders and other important transit points such as railway stations, bus stops, and highways. In 2018, PTPs have vaccinated a total of 1.7 million children. The use of PTPs across Pakistan is pivotal to guaranteeing that every child receives vaccination against the poliovirus.
Given the frequent population movements between Pakistan and Afghanistan’s shared borders and epidemiological block, the programme is also focused on fully synchronizing and coordinating its operations with the Afghan Polio Eradication Programme. This includes synchronization of immunization activities, detailed analysis and data sharing on key population movements, implementation of jointly developed plans, as well as cross border communication activities.
The NEAP also includes a Communication for Eradication Strategy that focuses on contextualizing the programme’s communication approaches according to the needs of communities. In addition, this strategy incorporates the strategic use of media, social media and advocacy measures to build community trust and acceptance needed to eradicate polio from communities. The programme also continues to use a network of community based vaccinators (CBVs), local influencers, religious leaders, health care providers, and tribal elders to boost trust and acceptability in the programme and answer common questions, concerns and misconceptions.
Data and Reports:
National Emergency Action Plan 2018-2019: http://endpolio.com.pk/images/Stories/NEAP-2018-2019.pdf
Pakistan Polio Update: http://endpolio.com.pk/media-room/pakistan-polio-update