Schools that refuse polio vaccination for students will lose registration

Karachi:September 15:The provincial education department on Thursday asked all private schools in Karachi to cooperate with polio vaccinators during the upcoming six-day vaccination drive commencing from Saturday, warning that refusal to let students be vaccinated would result in the cancellation of the schools' registration with the education department.

“If any educational institution refuses to cooperate with the polio eradication teams, the school’s registration would be cancelled as per the Sindh Private Educational Institution (Regulation and Control) Ordinance 2001,” the director general of the Sindh Education Department’s body overseeing private schools in Karachi said in a letter on Thursday.

The stern warning for schools came after Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah expressed his displeasure and disappointment on emergence of the year’s first polio case in Karachi this month, saying the fresh polio case had undone all the hard work that was put in to make Karachi polio-free.

Presiding over a meeting of the task force for polio eradication at the new Sindh Secretariat on Thursday, the CM directed the health department to make all their health facilities functional by appointing necessary staff.

The meeting was attended by chairperson of the Sindh Emergency Operations Center (EOC) for Polio, Dr Azra Pechuho, health minister Dr Sikandar Mandhro, chief secretary Rizwan Memon, health secretary Dr Fazalullah Pechuho, national technical focal person Dr Altaf Bossan, EOC technical focal person Dr Ahmad Ali Shaikh, national and provincial teams from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Unicef as well as Karachi Commissioner Ejaz Ahmad Khan and Sindh Additional IG Mushtaq Mahar. The meeting reviewed the polio eradication efforts in the wake of the fresh polio case in Karachi.

Authorities have planned a polio eradication campaign in Sindh from September 16 to September 21 in Karachi and from September 18 in all other districts of Sindh. The total target population is 8.4 million children under 5 years of age, including 2.3 million children in Karachi.

Sindh EOC provincial coordinator for polio Fayaz Jatoi told the meeting that Karachi had made a huge progress towards polio eradication and even the environment samples were clear until March this year, following which the virus reappeared and subsequently resulted in a case of polio in a 7-month child whose family used to refuse vaccination.

He proposed that in order to reverse the situation, all efforts must be made, including the engagement of 5,000 newly recruited medical staff in EPI/PEI, making health facilities functional in underserved areas and increasing the accountability of low performing officers.

Jatoi said recommended legislation for making it compulsory to vaccinate against polio in Sindh so that polio virus could be wiped out from the province for once and all.

The Sindh EOC coordinator claimed that polio virus transmission had restarted in Karachi, saying seven out of nine environmental sample sites in 2017 had been found positive. “This is why a polio case has been detected in Gulshan-e-Iqbal after 19 months of a polio free Karachi,” he said.

Addressing the participants, the chief minister expressed extreme displeasure on detection of a polio virus in an infant. He said the community elders and other compelling personalities, such as religious leaders, should be involved in the campaign to motivate the parents that polio vaccine was necessary to eradicate the crippling disease, he directed.

“I would personally visit the areas where the refusal rate is high,” he vowed, and directed the city commissioner to make necessary arrangements for his visit and urged the city mayor to accompany him on his special visit to high risk areas.

The CM also directed Karachi Mayor Waseem Akhtar to hold a meeting with all the chairmen of DMCs and gave them clear instructions to mobilise their health department to fight against polio. He also directed the city commissioner to submit a performance report of all deputy commissioners in this regard.

The CM was told that people from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA frequently visited Karachi and since they were the careers of polio virus, a new case had emerged in the city. But the chief minister refuted the claim, questioned as to how people from KP and FATA could bring polio virus to Karachi as these areas were polio free for a long time.

It was pointed out in the meeting that positive environmental samples in Kambar had been found in August, 2017. On this, the CM directed the health minister to remove the District Health Officer (DHO) of Kambar immediately and report back to him.

Shah said the operational weaknesses, increasing number of refusal and migration from high risk areas were contributing factors of polio virus transmission.

Refusal cases

Sindh EOC officials told the meeting that around 152,406 children could not be administered polio drops in Karachi due to their parents’ refusal or absence from homes.

Giving their details, Jatoi said 51,233 were not available in their homes when polio teams visited them, while 24,970 could not be administered the vaccine because of their guardians’ refusal and 76,203 children could not be approached.

The chief minister directed IG Mushtaq Maher, the health department and others to make all efforts to achieve the immunization target. “I will also visit the families refusing polio vaccines,” he said.

The national coordinator of polio programme, Dr Rana Safdar, said despite bringing improvements to the programme over the last 3 years, there was a lot to be done to eradicate the menace of polio from Pakistan.

Waseem Akhtar proposed that an awareness drive with a video message of the chief minister should be launched to address refusals in the city.The news.