TAG Chair visits Pakistan
Chairman of Technical Advisory Group (TAG) on Polio Eradication Dr. Jean-Marc Olivé, and member TAG Dr. Chris Morry arrives in Pakistan to assess the progress made by the Pakistan Polio program during the on-going low season of 2015-16.
The TAG team was briefed by the Coordinator for National Emergency Operation Centre, Dr Rana Safdar about the overall progress of the program at the EOC, Islamabad. The two-member TAG team will be visiting all the provincial EOCs and some of the core reservoir areas to assess the quality of the campaign and progress made on various recommendations given by the TAG board during its 17 meeting held on 28-29 January 2016.
There has been significant progress in polio eradication globally with a decrease in the number of cases from 359 in 2014 to 72 in 2015 and 33 in 2016. Afghanistan and Pakistan remain the only two endemic countries in the world. Pakistan has shown tremendous progress with significant reduction in number of WPV1 cases from 306 in 2014 to 53 in 2015 and 17 in 2016 whereas Afghanistan had 28 cases in 2014, 19 cases in 2015 and 12 cases in 2016.
In its last meeting, TAG panel had appreciated the improvements shown by the program team under key areas of the program and recommended to not only sustain those gains but use evidence to improve the quality of campaigns at local levels. The TAG Panel also saw considerable improvements in reaching out to missed children and minimizing the refusals but have recommended for addressing the remaining clusters in Gadap (Karachi), Bannu and Peshawar (KP).
Special efforts are also underway to develop a synergy between Expended Program of Immunization (EPI) and Polio Eradication Initiative (PEI) by the communication group to ensure that besides polio messages, emphasis on routine immunization should remain part of the discourse at national, provincial and even at community level.
The panel highlighted following three key areas where they believed communication task group has shown significant improvement; community acceptance and intent for vaccination, perception of vaccinators’ performance and increase trust among the local health organizations.
Keeping in view the recommendations of TAG for increasing cross border coordination with Afghanistan, Communication unit is undertaking a regular meeting with the counterparts in Afghanistan for synchronizing key campaign messages, outdoor advertisements on border crossings and Voice of America (VOA) project.