Pakistan launches fresh anti-polio campaign as COVID-19 cases rise

Pakistan on Monday launched a new door-to-door campaign to vaccinate millions of children against polio in spite of the risks posed by an alarming rise in Coronavirus infections, an official said.

The five-day campaign would target more than 22 million children under the age of five.

Around 150,000 frontline workers will span out across 70 districts to administer the oral drops while following COVID-19 safety protocols.

Pakistan started a polio programme in 1994 and came very close to eliminating the viral illness that can cause paralysis, difficulty breathing and death.

In 2019, the country recorded 147 cases, a five-year high, amid vaccine boycotts and attacked on health workers.

Militants linked with al-Qaeda often attack health workers.

Last month, at least two policemen guarding polio vaccinators were killed in separate attacks in north-western Pakistan.

“We have launched the vaccination drive to build on the immunity the children have developed during last year in spite of an alarming rise of new Coronavirus cases,” Shahzad Baig, a health ministry official, said.

Pakistan and Afghanistan were among only a few countries in the world where polio were still endemic.

The first polio vaccination drive of the year started at a time when the country was battling to bring down steadily rising daily infections of Coronavirus.

Authorities have put sections of megacities such as Islamabad under localised lockdowns, banned entry of unvaccinated people in mosques and closed educational institutions where new cases were detected.  (dpa/NAN)