Age limit for polio vaccination doubled in parts of capital

ISLAMABAD: After continuous detection of poliovirus in the sewage of Islamabad, the National Polio Programme has decided to double the age limit of children in selected sectors from five to 10 years for vaccination.

The sectors and areas where children up to 10 years would be vaccinated include I-9, I-10, I-11, I-12, H-11, H-12, H-13, Nasirabad, Chishtiabad and Shams Colony.

“A poliovirus, which had originated from the Nangarhar province of Afghanistan, was initially detected in Peshawar and then in Islamabad and it is continuously being detected in Sabzi Mandi (Sector I-11) sewage,” Coordinator for the National Emergency Operations Centre for Polio Eradication Dr Rana Mohammad Safdar told Dawn.

He said during a survey it emerged that a large number of children carrying poliovirus from the inaccessible areas of Afghanistan frequently visited some parts of the federal capital.

Decision taken for selected areas where poliovirus has continuously been detected through environmental sampling

“To avoid the chances of polio case we have decided to double the age limit for vaccination in selected areas of the capital. During the ongoing campaign, children up to the age of 10 years are being vaccinated in these areas.”

Dr Safdar said children who come to the federal capital from Afghanistan not only had a weak immune level but could also transfer the virus to local children.

“In the past, around 280,000 children up to the age of five used to be vaccinated in the federal capital. Now the number will increase to 350,000 as more children would be covered in the selected areas. We expect that this step would help eradicate the poliovirus,” he said.

Babar Bin Atta, the prime minister’s focal person on polio eradication, told Dawn that the deputy commissioner Islamabad had informed him that poliovirus was continuously being detected in the city because of the visitors from Peshawar and inaccessible areas of Afghanistan.

“He suggested that the age limit for the vaccination should be doubled. I assured him that additional vaccine and all other support would also be provided for it,” he said.

In reply to a question, Mr Atta said the last Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) report had criticised the performance of the PML-N government saying its polio programmes focused only on the number of cases.

The report said the major issue which needed to be focused was detection of the virus from environmental sampling rather than decreasing the number of cases. The report suggested that Pakistan should make efforts to eradicate the virus from sewage, he said.

The IMB works on behalf of the international donor agencies and issues reports on the performance of countries after every six months.

Mr Atta claimed that he had requested Prime Minister Imran Khan to allow him to make the sewage sampling reports public every month.

“Now it has been brought in the knowledge of the citizens through the media that in which areas the poliovirus is being detected. This step has made it possible to hold the deputy commissioners accountable. The district polio programmes have started making extra efforts to eradicate the virus from the sewage in their jurisdictions,” he said.

Published in Dawn, December 14th, 2018