Senator Ayesha asks PEI team to give Polio the last push

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Islamabad: Prime Minister’s Focal Person for Polio Eradication Senator Ayesha Raza Farooq urged the polio team leaders to continue to make all out efforts to sustain high quality work being undertaken across the country to stop poliovirus transmission in the last remaining reservoir areas.

Presiding over a technical review meeting of Pakistan’s Polio Eradication Program, she said that “We have entered 2017 with the awareness that we are very close, but the job is not done yet.” Our struggle to squeeze out the virus from Pakistan has resulted in the least cases we have had ever since 2005. To date we have 20 cases recorded in 2016 with 54 cases in 2015 and 306 in 2014 -- a decrease of 94% since 2014 and 65 % since 2015; she said. 

Lauding polio teams’ efforts she said during these past 12 months, we have seen many ups and downs. However, thanks to your dedication we have achieved over 99 per cent of our vaccination targets during 2016.

By any national and international standards this is something to be proud of. The credit for reaching this stage goes to all of you here, your teams and all our front line health workers who have braved all odds to ensure that no child is missed. You are not only protecting children from this entirely preventable disease but also providing tactics for other health programmes to reach Pakistan’s children.

We must focus on the selection and deployment of well-trained and supervised female vaccinators with a realistic work burden everywhere. Senator Ayesha stressed the need to have quality micro-plans to track and vaccinate new-born, guest and transit children in a timely manner across the board. With our highly mobile population in Pakistan, unless every child is tracked and vaccinated there is a high risk that virus transmission will continue. 

She added children who do not receive polio vaccination during their routine immunisation remain vulnerable to viral infections – particularly in areas covered in National Polio Campaigns. Closing the immunity gap of new-born children before these infants begin to fully participate in transmission is a race against time; she added.

Senator Ayesha sais in 2017, I am confident that together, we can sustain the high quality of work we are doing and defeat this deadly virus.Speaking on the occasion Dr. Rana Muhammad Safdar, National Coordinator Polio Emergency said we are actively searching for pockets where the virus is hiding.  In order to root out the virus, heightened community search is taking place to look for paralysis cases, in addition more samples are being taken from the environment to find where the virus is. 

He said as we continue to enhance the sensitivity of our surveillance system, we expect more of the virus to be revealed. This is a critical step as we edge closer to stopping transmission - we must remember that bad news now is ultimately good news for us and enables us to respond quickly. We have an aggressive schedule of campaigns ahead of us and need to ensure that we have high quality campaigns to reach every child in Pakistan, every time the vaccine is offered; he added.