LAHORE: In what appears to be a gross negligence on the part of the polio programme managers, over 12,000 children remained out of vaccine cover in Lahore during the recent inoculation campaign — the highest number of the ‘missed children’ reported in the provincial capital so far.

The Synergy Evaluation System (SES) has reported the data of the missed children who could not be accessed during the National Immunization Days (NIDs) campaign launched in Lahore, Rawalpindi and Faisalabad on Aug 22. In the seven-day campaign, two days were dedicated for reaching “not avail­able children”.

The SES is an initiative by PEI-EPI Synergy Punjab to get real time data of coverage evaluation for 6-23 month target age group, based on unvaccinated children, according to age immunisation, fully immunised children and IPV vaccination ( given as a shot in the arm or leg, depending on a child’s age) coverage to identify the potential gaps in a union council for rectification and EI improvement.

The World Health Organization (WHO) in its standard guidelines has already declared that polio mainly affects children under five years of age. However, anyone of any age who is unvaccinated can contract the disease.

“There is no cure for polio”, the WHO says, adding that unvaccinated children may also put others of their age at risk through transmission of the virus. It says the endemic transmission of wild poliovirus is continuing in areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

“As long as a single child remains infected, children in all countries are at risk of contracting polio”, it says.

The WHO warns the failure to eradicate polio from these last remaining strongholds can result in a global resurgence of the disease.

Contrary to these hard facts, the polio programme managers in Punjab seem to be negligent towards the successful implementation of the initiatives and targets set by the WHO, other global health bodies and donors.

It is evident from the SES report, which exposed the poor performance of the health and district authorities, that a total of 12,213 children were not administered polio vaccine in Aug NIDs in Lahore, a city which has constantly been under threat for polio epidemic for years.

Out of the total unvaccinated children, as reported by the SES, 10,949 are up to two months of age, 755 of 3-6 months, 423 of 7 months to 1 year age, while 86 of them are above one-year age.

The report also shows a comparison of the data of unvaccinated children with the figures reported in May and March this year.

It says 11,065 children of above-mentioned age groups had gone unvaccinated during NID campaign launched in May and 10,582 in the NID drive in March this year, bringing total number of unvaccinated children to 33,860 in Lahore alone.

As is evident from the report, the health authorities have been persistently missing the children in each polio vaccination drive.

Similarly, the number of missed children also increasing in the NID campaigns because the number of unvaccinated children reported in August 2022 was more than that of May and March.

“If we leave a child unvaccinated for polio, it means we are putting at risk nearly 10 other children living around him/her”, an official source said.

He laments that health managers, despite drawing hefty salaries, perks and privileges, were showing negligence, resulting in such a large number of unvaccinated children, and that too in Lahore. The situation requires that the officials concerned must be held answerable for their negligence, he added. He said it was regrettable that the issue of such a large number of missed children was swept under the carpet by the managers during several meetings of the Punjab Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) held in September in various cities of the province to review the anti-polio activities.

Chaired by Punjab EOC Coordinator Ms Syedha Ramallah Ali, the meetings had stressed the need to improve macro and micro planning of the polio vaccination campaigns.

Published in Dawn, September 15th, 2022

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