ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will resume polio vaccinations on July 20, after a four-month break amid the coronavirus outbreak, health ministry officials said on Sunday.
All polio activities in Pakistan came to a halt when the World Health Organization (WHO) decided in late March that they should be suspended to avoid placing communities and frontline workers at the risk of contracting COVID-19.
“We are initially aiming to target areas with continuous poliovirus circulation to protect children against the crippling polio disease during this case response," Dr. Rana Muhammad Safdar, coordinator of the National Emergency Operations Centre at the health ministry's Polio Eradication Program, said in a statement.
In the first phase of the resumed immunization campaign, the government seeks to vaccinate 800,000 children under the age of five in the districts of Faisalabad, Attock, South Waziristan and parts of Karachi and Quetta.
Safdar said that polio workers have been trained in COVID-19 protocols and the anti-polio campaign will also be utilized to raise awareness about preventive measure against the coronavirus.
Polio is endemic in Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan, and in both countries efforts to eradicate it have been upended by the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Polio Eradication Program data, 58 polio cases have been reported across Pakistan since the beginning of the year — 21 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 20 in Sindh, 14 in Balochistan and three in Punjab.