Islamabad, September 21: Pakistan on Monday launched an ambitious nationwide polio vaccination campaign targeting nearly 40 million children, amidst tight security for medical workers who face threat from militants.
Under the vaccination programme, which earlier got postponed for months due to the coronavirus pandemic, around 270,000 polio workers would go from door-to-door to vaccinate children below the age of five.
“This would be a massive polio administration drive under which 40 million children below the age of five would be targeted,” a senior official said.
While the vaccination programme is nationwide, the duration of the drive has been set by the provinces as per their convenience.
Sindh Health Department said that a seven-day anti-polio drive has been launched across Sindh, with a target to vaccinate nine million children, the News International reported.
In Peshawar, the coordinator for the Emergency Operations Center for polio eradication in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa said a three-day anti-polio drive was launched across the province after being suspended earlier on March 13 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The target, the official added, was to vaccinate 6.54 million children during the campaign, with 28,528 teams of polio workers participating in the campaign.
Coronavirus-related Standard Operating Procedures would be strictly enforced during the campaign, the coordinator said, adding that the field staff were provided with surgical masks, hand sanitizer, thermal guns, and other protective equipment.
Authorities in Balochistan are targeting 2.5 million children after the province reported 19 cases of polio this year.
On the other hand, the spokesperson for the Pakistan Polio Eradication Programme in Punjab said the five-day anti-polio drive would run from September 21 to 25 in the province.
Authorities said police and other law enforcement agencies were also called in to protect the volunteers while they would be performing the task in the interior areas.
Islamist militants consider anti-polio vaccines as a Western conspiracy to sterilise Muslims. More than 100 people associated with anti-polio drive have been killed in such attacks since December 2012.
Islamists’ opposition to all forms of immunisation grew after the Central Intelligence Agency organised a fake vaccination drive to help track down Al-Qaeda’s former leader Osama Bin Laden in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad.
He was killed there by US special forces in 2011. (PTI)