40mn children in Pakistan did not receive polio vaccinations due to COVID-19 outbreak: UNICEF

40mn children in Pakistan did not receive polio vaccinations due to COVID-19 outbreak: UNICEF
40mn children in Pakistan did not receive polio vaccinations due to COVID-19 outbreak: UNICEF

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - ISLAMABAD — In 2020, efforts to eradicate polio were affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, when almost 40 million children in Pakistan did not receive polio vaccinations between April and June, when all polio campaigns were suspended, according to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) Pakistan 2020 annual report.

However, vaccination campaigns resumed in the summer, it added.

In 2020, 83 cases of wild poliovirus were reported in Pakistan, a decline from 147 in 2019. However, the number of vaccine-derived cases rose, from 22 in 2019 to 121 in 2020.

In many areas of Pakistan, parents are reluctant to have their children vaccinated against polio, the report revealed, adding, "These are generally areas where public services are weak and communities suffer multiple deprivations."

In 2020, UNICEF conducted 80 health camps in the 40 super-high-risk union councils in Pakistan.

Aida Girma, UNICEF Country Representative, said, "the pandemic has only strengthened our close partnerships with government and United Nations counterparts and other partners. We agreed that there were many valuable lessons to be learned from this unprecedented year, and innovations that could lay the foundation for the remainder of the country program."

"As 2021 dawns and countries begin to vaccinate their populations, we begin to see the first glimpses of a post-pandemic world," she added.

Under the umbrella of the National Emergency Operations Centre, UNICEF supported 14 polio vaccination campaigns in 2020. These campaigns provided 97.8 percent of 39 million targeted children with oral polio vaccination — a crucial step in the effort to eradicate polio worldwide.

The UNICEF said it procured 302 million doses of the polio vaccine, which ensured 100 percent vaccine availability for all campaigns. — WAM


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