ISLAMABAD: Two drops of anti-polio vaccine can save lives, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said and vowed to get the country free from the life-threatening virus.
“I urge parents not to miss getting their children administered with the [anti-]polio drops and support the government’s goal to make Pakistan polio-free,” he said after launching the nationwide vaccination drive on Monday.
At least 14 polio cases have so far been reported in Pakistan, all from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, this year. The country has been conducting drives and awareness campaigns to encourage people to get their children vaccinated and avoid the stigma around it.
The campaign kicked off as the premier administered drops of vaccine to children under the age of five here at the Prime Minister’s House. He lamented the emergence of new cases in a few places in the country.
PM Shehbaz expressed Pakistan’s commitment to ending polio and emphasised the role of the government leaders, health workers, and parents to ensure that the disease never paralysed a child.
“By keeping up the momentum and staying vigilant, Pakistan would be able to win the challenge of polio eradication,” he said. The premier called upon the federal, provincial and district managements to address the challenges of “persistently missed children” and also encouraged people by raising awareness about the gravity of the situation.
He paid tribute to the polio workers for relentlessly carrying out the drive in far-flung areas despite the challenges including resistance and refusals by some community members. Unidentified people in the past have targeted health workers and policemen guarding the team.
At least two policemen, who were safeguarding the polio team in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Tank city, were killed when unidentified persons opened fire on them on August 16.
Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, Federal Health Minister Abdul Qadir Patel, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb and representatives of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation attended the ceremony.
“A polio-free Pakistan is our national goal. Pakistan is one of few countries that still have polio cases, which is unfortunate,” the premier later said in a series of tweets.
He urged federal and provincial governments to do their best to eradicate the polio virus as a collective mission.
“With access to several areas of the country virtually cut off due to flash floods, this anti-polio campaign has become all the more challenging. However, complacency is not an option. Grateful to our global partners, particularly Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for their support,” he added.
The premier also lauded healthcare workers’ efforts while presiding over the National Task Force meeting for Polio Eradication, Pakistan Television reported. “The current climatic conditions pose great challenges to vaccination campaigns, but it is remarkable to see how polio teams have carried on despite floods in several parts of Khyber-Pakhtunkwa and torrential rains in Karachi.”