Anti-Polio Teams Deploy At Transit Sites In Punjab To Eradicate Polio

“Punjab is prioritizing, tracking & vaccinating not-available children with critical focus on three very high-risk mega districts,” said Punjab EOC.

Anti-Polio Teams Deploy At Transit Sites In Punjab To Eradicate Polio

“In an effort to eradicate polio, Punjab has established transit vaccination points to immunise cross-border and inter-provincial populations,” he added. “In the wake of virus transmission in Pakistan, anti-polio teams deployed at the transit sites in Punjab have been further alerted so that no child misses polio vaccination.” The Punjab EOC has tasked the District Health Management Teams with regularly supervising all teams.

The decision  of anti-polio teams deployed at the transit sites has been taken to ensure that virus does not return to the province or find its way through Punjab to other provinces. The moving population run the risk of carrying the virus and infect unvaccinated and immuno-compromised children,” he added.

Punjab is all set to complete second year without a polio case. Last time polio virus crippled a child in Punjab was back in 2020. Positive environmental samples from Lahore, Rawalpindi, Sialkot and Faisalabad are an indicator that there is no room for complacency.

The reemergence of the polio virus in samples is an urgent reminder to ensure that children are administered two polio drops in every polio immunization drive until the virus is completely eradicated.

If looked closely, all the cases reported in Pakistan have been limited to a very narrow geographic region close to Afghanistan border. But Punjab, the recipient of populations from across the country as well as from Afghanistan, will remain susceptible to the virus owing to the ongoing population movement.

“Punjab is prioritizing, tracking, and vaccinating not-available children with a critical focus on three very high-risk mega districts, including Faisalabad, Lahore, and Rawalpindi,” said KhizerAfzaal Chaudhry, the Punjab Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) Coordinator and head of the polio programme, recounting the measures taken to keep the virus out of the province.

Transit points provide an opportunity to vaccinate as many children as possible as they pass through. The sites are critical in reducing the risk of virus transmission. 15 of the 41 operational transit sites are located at inter-provincial borders with KP, Sindh, and Baluchistan; six are international airports; and two are railway stations.

Attock, Mianwali, Bhakkar, Dera Ghazi Khan, Rajanpur, Rahim Yar Khan, Multan, Faisalabad, Lahore, and Sialkot are among the districts with permanent transit sites. Furthermore, in order to increase vaccination rates among children from priority communities at transit points, the EOC has deployed language-appropriate social mobilizers alongside anti-polio teams.

Over 20 million children were vaccinated in each national SIA. While in sub-national activities, Punjab successfully met its targets. In monsoon season, however, rains coupled with displacement of families due to floods posed serious challenges in achieving full vaccination of children.

Punjab Emergency Operations Centre continued to remain in touch with the affected districts and coordinated relief measures like health camps. This was done to ensure that accessible children receive polio drops and communities are able to receive integrated services.

The EOC finalized plans to hold SIAs in the affected districts immediately and successfully vaccinated children against polio in areas missed due to floods. Districts which were severely affected with floods included Mianwali, Layyah, Muzaffargarh, Rajanpur, Bahawalpur, DG Khan and RY Khan. The EOC has developed an application to help the EPI in zero dose recording and coverage in all 36 districts.

Priority Community Engagement is the cornerstone of polio eradication efforts which ensures access of polio teams in the most vulnerable households. Punjab EOC has deployed 827 language appropriate personnel in priority communities in 19 districts of Punjab.

During the year 2022, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) ramped up support for polio eradication by dedicating the second day of the Lahore test match between Pakistan and Australia to raising awareness.

A number of cricketers, including M Yousuf and Abdul Razzaq, joined forces with Punjab Emergency Operations Centre to reach out to communities across the country. Communication workers conducted the profiling of high-risk communities, dispelled myths, misconceptions and broke new barriers to ensure all children receive the anti-polio vaccine.

Every single child needs to be vaccinated in order to achieve population immunity and prevent virus circulation. Local communities must be reassured that immunization is a safe and effective means of safeguarding their children against this virus, underscored the EOC coordinator.

Most of the activities focused on the engagement of ulema, religious elders, village influencers, political leaders, teachers, students, community-based organizations, priority communities, labourers and doctors.