ISLAMABAD: The International Monitoring Board (IMB) appreciated Pakistan’s progress in polio immunisation programme, terming it a ‘high-performing programme’ and called for adopting innovative approaches to eradicate the disease once and for all.
In its 14th report titled “Every Last Virus” released on Thursday, the anti-polio watchdog stated that although the December 2016 deadline for eliminating poliovirus transmission globally was not achieved, it was “deeply impressed” with the commitment and dedication of the three polio endemic countries – Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan.
The Independent Monitoring Board provides an independent assessment of the progress being made by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI).
This report follows the IMB’s meeting held in London on May 2 and 3 this year where health officials briefed the board about the current situation in their respective regions.
The IMB acknowledged that the current scale of environmental sampling in Pakistan was unprecedented.
It noted that there was no room for complacency.
Highlighting the progress at all levels in Pakistan, the IMB expressed concern over the programme quality in the Quetta Block which “is still well below peak performance and contains the highest number of susceptible children”.
The report also noted that the single biggest issue confronting the anti-polio programme in Pakistan was devising a strategy to effectively reach large numbers of children on the move with their families between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
In Pakistan, it noted, even after attempts to go back to communities to find children who had been missed, unvaccinated children numbered 223,669 in April 2017 and 858,000 (low season 2017).
The report stressed the need for vaccinating all children no matter how short their stay.
It also called for urgently reviewing and enhancing local micro-planning to ensure that children “not available” for vaccination were somehow reached by vaccinators.
It also recommended that reviews of surveillance, currently being conducted by the GPEI, should be revisited to ensure that they address: action to identify and close surveillance gaps at national and sub-national levels; plans for special case detection initiatives in all areas of inaccessibility; prompt and precise identification of areas (both national and subnational) where data quality is weak; clear course of action for identification and resolution of data manipulation.
Poor state of routine immunisation
The report cited a seasoned observer of public health services in Pakistan, who said: “If the country had even a half-competent routine immunisation programme in its reservoirs, polio would have been eliminated a long time ago.”
Highlighting the real situation, it said that despite some recent improvements, key areas of Pakistan have some of the worst levels of routine vaccine coverage in the world.
The report recommended an immediate boost to the quality of routine immunisation in polio reservoirs which could deliver a decisive blow to poliovirus.
It called for constituting a special task force to bring about a major transformation in performance over the next six months.
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