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Toba Tek Singh Infant Tests Positive For Poliovirus Despite Vaccination

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Poliovirus was detected in a six-month-old girl in village Chak Sahu, Toba Tek Singh, even though she was administered an anti-polio vaccine to immunise her from the virus.

According to The News, the father of the child, Bashir Ahmad, informed the provincial health department that her child has developed paralysis in one leg. Following this, the department took a stool sample of the girl and sent it to the National Institute of Health in Islamabad. The NIH report termed the case polio-positive.

District Health Authority Chief Executive Officer Dr Mumtaz Hussain told the media outlet that the child was administered vaccines for polio and other diseases as well. However, after he ordered an inspection in the area, it was found out many other children have also not developed immunity against the virus despite being vaccinated.

According to the official, a special anti-polio vaccination drive has been launched in the union council while a special campaign has also started in all other tehsils of the district.

‘Not a new case’:

Punjab Polio Programme spokesperson Wasif Mahmood said there was no new case Toba Tek Singh, as this girl was among the six cases of Type-2 poliovirus reported at the start of this month. He also rejected assumptions that there were any problems with the vaccines. He claimed that the case was positive due to ‘weak routine immunisation’.

“Three districts of Faisalabad, Jhang and Toba Tek Singh have been specially marked with weak routine immunisation,” Mahmood was quoted by the newspaper.

A national polio vaccination drive will be launched on September 21 to break the transmission of the virus, said a health official in the wake of the rising cases.

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Covid lockdown and anti-polio drive

The administration of the vaccine has already been suffering in the country because of the coronavirus, over 30 million children, including 18 million in Punjab alone, have not been administered with the vaccine.

Amid Covid lockdown, the disruption of the drive raised fears of a spike in polio cases in Pakistan, which, along with neighbouring Afghanistan is just one of two countries in the world where the disease remains endemic, officials said.

While the COVID-19 poses the greatest threat this year, vaccination drives in Pakistan have previously faced numerous challenges.

Last year, religious hard-liners in the northwestern city of Peshawar spread rumours of children falling sick due to the vaccine, triggering backlash in the conservative northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where most of Pakistan’s polio cases have been detected.

Mobs burned a village health centre, blocked a highway and pelted cars with stones. Medical workers were harassed and threatened. A woman vaccinator and two policemen escorting the polio team were also shot dead in separate incidents last year.

At least 62 polio cases have been reported in the current year so far. In 2020 so far, 42 cases were confirmed in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 12 in Punjab, seven in Sindh and one in Balochistan.

In Jan 2020, the United States generated a Level 2 travel alert for polio-endemic countries, including Pakistan. According to the US travel alert 2, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention CDC recommends that all travelers to the countries in-question be vaccinated fully against polio.

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Naya Daur