PESHAWAR, Nov 5: Unavailability of oral polio vaccine is hampering the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa health department’s plan to carry out special immunisation campaigns in the province, it is learnt.
Officials of the health department fear that the government’s failure to ensure smooth supply of OPV could put the health of scores of children at risk.
They told Dawn on Saturday that the department had to postpone the Nov 4 three-day special vaccination campaign in the province due to lack of preparedness.
Officials said alarmed by the reporting of fresh polio cases in the province over the last one and a half months, a high-level meeting chaired by the provincial chief secretary had decided to run special campaigns every two week to contain polio, but currently, OPV wasn’t available.
According to them, another campaign has been planned for Nov 11 subject to supply of OPV from the centre.
The special campaigns are aimed at giving additional doses of OPV to children to safeguard them against polio.
Officials said at the request of the provincial health department for OPV supply, the centre had asked Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for vaccine management and prevention of its waste.
They said a letter sent last week by the federal government in this respect suggested that the best quality immunisation campaigns with 95 per cent coverage be conducted instead of several low quality drives.
A health department official said the federal government, too, faced OPV shortage as it had to keep certain stock to be rushed to any of the districts that recorded polio case in the country.
He said the government was also required to supply OPV to fixed centres established by the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) at its countrywide hospitals.
“The centre will supply the vaccines keeping view the available stock with the health department,” he said.
When contacted, provincial EPI deputy director Dr Jan Baz Afridi said his department required vaccines to run the special campaign and stop circulation of virsus for which they awaited vaccines.
“We have sent to the centre the request for OPV we need. We don’t have its stock for special campaigns at present because these activities were planned lately,” he said.
Technical focal person at Chief Minister’s Secretariat Dr Imtiaz Ali Shah told Dawn that the province could get OPV for the December immunisation campaign under the National Emergency Action Plan for Polio Eradication but didn’t have the vaccine to run special campaigns meant to administer additional doses to children in short intervals and stop circulation of poliovirus.
“Now after postponement of one special campaign, another will be conducted soon. The federal government has indicated that vaccines have been procured and will be provided to the province soon,” he said.
Dr Shah said 19 of the current year’s 47 countrywide polio case were reported in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
He said the province required vaccine to immunise children because poliovirus remained active until December, while the threat of infection lowered between January and May as the virus got inactive.
“After receiving desired stock of OPV from the centre, we will plan another immunisation campaign. It will depend on the availability of the vaccine whether we run the drive throughout the province to vaccinate all five million targeted children below five years of age or keep it only to vaccination of children in high-risk union councils,” he said.