The National Institute of Health, Islamabad confirmed the presence of the virus in 12-month-old Khairmadullah, son of Amirdullah and resident of Mizer village of Khuji Khel in Miranshah tehsil of NWA. The child had not received a single dose of oral polio vaccine.
The second child confirmed to be infected was identified as 18-month-old Shakirullah, son of Zabiullah and resident of Qazi Khel village in union council Khalisa 2, Peshawar.
According to an official associated with the polio eradication campaign, Shakirullah’s stool sample was collected on February 9. “The virus had infected the child almost two weeks prior to the Sehat ka Insaf immunisation campaign launched by the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government in Peshawar,” he said.
The emergence of four cases in a brief span of two days has raised alarm bells.
“Such a high number of cases is being reported in low transmission season, this means the country might face one of the largest outbreaks in its history if a large-scale immunisation campaign is not carried out immediately,” the official added.
While the massive immunisation campaign in Peshawar might be able to keep the polio outbreak under control, the situation for the tribal areas remains bleak amidst the ‘ban’ on vaccination imposed by local Taliban.
Sehat ka Insaf
All government-run primary schools along with private schools will remain closed on Saturday (today) as the Sehat ka Insaf immunisation drive will be carried out in Peshawar. Children up to five years of age will be administered vaccines against nine diseases, including polio.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 22nd, 2014.