Pakistan launches vaccination campaign to push against polio


Pakistan on Monday launched an emergency anti-polio vaccination campaign as the total number of affected children rose to 58 in the current year, an official said.

Three new cases of the crippling disease were reported last week in the north-western province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

"A three-day vaccination campaign in 46 districts of the country has been launched from 26 August," said Babar Bin Atta, head of Pakistan's anti-polio programme.

The campaign will target 8.5 million children across the country with major focus on the 29 districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa from where 44 new cases have been reported out of 58, Atta said.

He said 4000 security personnel have been deployed for the campaign.

In April, a vaccination campaign ran into trouble when a viral fake video purported to show school children falling ill after they were given the vaccine in north-western city of Peshawar. Some parents refuse permission to administer the vaccine, fearing it might make their children sterile or cause other complications.

The government launched an awareness campaign in areas with highest numbers of new cases. A billboard in Bannu district clarified that the vaccine was imported from Indonesia, a Muslim country and not from "India".

The UN-funded vaccination programme has helped Pakistan to control the spread of the disease. The number of affected children came down to 12 in 2018, compared to 304 in 2014.

Militants have killed hundreds of health workers and police officials guarding them because they claim the vaccines are intended to make Muslim children sterile.

Pakistan and Afghanistan are among only a handful of countries in the world where polio is still prevalent.   (dpa)

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