In light of the recent polio cases that were reported in districts Shangla and Tor Ghar, the Prime Minister’s Focal Person on Polio Eradication Babar bin Atta has said that the Pakistan Polio Eradication Programme will be launching an “outbreak response” polio drive in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa from July 15.
Atta made the announcement in a series of tweets on July 2.
The drive will be launched in three phases and cover 11 districts of the province: Tor Ghar, Upper and Lower Kohistan, Kolai Palas, Battagram, Mansehra, Haripur, Shangla, Swat, Buner and Swabi. As per a directive by the Emergency Operations Centre Peshawar dated July 2, the campaign is in direct response to four new polio cases reported in the region.
Atta said that during the campaign parents who refuse to get their children immunised will not be punished. He also said that polio workers will be provided extra security to carry out their duties. However, he did not mention what those extra security measures would be.
In a letter to the editor published in Dawn on July 2, Atta said that a perception management campaign will also be launched soon to address people’s concerns about polio vaccines and curb the spread of misinformation about the immunisation campaign.
KP’s recent anti-polio campaign will run over the course of three months. The first case response will take place from July 15 to July 18; second from August 26 to August 29 and third from September 16 to September 19.
Back-to-back campaign drives help strengthen herd immunity in young children. Herd immunity is when a large segment of the population is protected against a bacteria or virus through immunisation. This in turn makes it difficult for the bacteria or virus to spread and protects vulnerable segments such as young children, the elderly and those with weak immune systems.
The immunisation drive aims to stop polio from spreading further among the population. For herd immunity to work, it is important that the maximum number of children in the area are vaccinated.