Punjab polio-free, but threat remains, says health official

Khizer Afzaal, the Head of the Polio Eradication Programme in Punjab, proudly highlighted that the largest province in Pakistan has remained free of polio cases for nearly three years, starting from October 2020. He termed this accomplishment “a testament to the program’s success.” However, he issued a caution that despite this milestone, Punjab is not immune to the risk of virus importation, as evidenced by genomic sampling of viruses in Lahore and Rawalpindi environmental samples.

As ‘World Polio Day’ was set to be observed, Mr. Khizer expressed the importance of continuous vigilance, stating, “The Punjab has been free of polio cases for the last three years, but as long as polio exists anywhere, it is a threat to children everywhere.”

To commemorate ‘World Polio Day,’ the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) in Punjab organized various events throughout the province. Khizer Afzaal emphasized the need to reach every child, especially in the final stages of polio eradication. He assured that the government and the health department are fully committed to achieving this goal, ensuring that children in Pakistan will no longer be afflicted by polio.

Mr. Afzaal expressed his gratitude to the dedicated polio workers who have tirelessly reached children all across the country, acknowledging their vital role in bringing Pakistan closer to eradicating the disease. He also thanked religious scholars, defense forces, and security personnel for their exceptional support in this national endeavor.

Khizer Afzaal underscored the profound impact of polio eradication efforts, mentioning that thanks to these efforts, thousands of people in Pakistan have been spared from paralysis.

On World Polio Day, he called upon everyone to ensure that the polio virus finds no sanctuary within their communities or homes. This collective effort, he emphasized, will lead to the eradication of the second human disease in history and, most importantly, prevent any parent or child from having to fear the paralysis caused by the virus ever again.

World Polio Day serves as a reminder of the commitment of the government, the global polio eradication community, and the partners in the Polio Eradication Initiative (PEI) in Pakistan to create a polio-free world for future generations.

The observance of World Polio Day is a tribute to Dr. Jonas Salk, who led the first team to develop a polio vaccine. The introduction of the polio vaccine significantly reduced the incidence of polio cases worldwide by 99 percent, with Pakistan and Afghanistan being the only remaining polio-endemic countries.

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