Pakistan, Peshawar: After cases were reported even after use of multiple doses of the oral polio vaccine in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistani authorities are banking on the inactivated polio vaccine (IPV). The Fata, in northwestern Pakistan, which recorded 16 polio cases in 2015 showing a reduction of 90 per cent from 2014, formally launched IPV in its expanded programme on immunisation (EPI) on Thursday to boost children’s immunity through injection. The single dose of IPV is administered to children between four and 23 months of age along OPV to enhance their immunity.
Assistant director EPI Dr Ikhtiar Ali said that of the total one million under-five children in Fata and Frontier Regions 187,000 would receive IPV in 233 fixed health centres in BHUs during routine immunisation. He said that last week they carried out IPV immunisation campaign, but now it had become part of the regular programme under which vaccination for nine preventable diseases were provided free of cost. He said, “we are well on our way to eradicate polio this year through concerted efforts to vaccinate children in Fata, Peshawar and Jalalabad, the region called ‘conveyor belt of polio transmission’ by global polio initiative”.
The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa included IPV in EPI early this month after starting its campaign in April last year in the high-risk districts of the province. Eighty per cent of the polio-infected children had got doses of OPV. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which recorded 16 cases in 2015, is also facing a daunting task to curb polio as despite huge reduction in cases children have been testing positive for polio despite getting multiple doses of OPV. The province is desperately in need of IPV to scale up children’s immunity. The strategic advisory group of experts on vaccination had suggested use of bivalent vaccine because presence of type-3 wild polio viruses was last reported in Bara, Khyber Agency, in April 2012, while type-2 was certified to have been eradicated in 1999.
The experts said that bivalent vaccine was presently given orally to children for type-1 and type-3 viruses, while the need was to focus on type-1 virus which was prevalent in the country. All 52 cases reported nationwide were of type-1. Though there’s no determined role of IPV in polio eradication, but the expert group had proposed its launching to protect children against polio. The main campaign against polio depends on the OPV, which is given to children from birth to 40 months.
Pakistan and Afghanistan remain the two polio endemic countries left in the world. The entire world had eliminated poliovirus using OPV, but in Pakistan’ case the children are required to get IPV to ensure life-long safety against poliovirus. The experts said that the IPV consisting of “dead virus” didn’t have any side effects. The KP and Fata that together recorded 32 cases in 2015 have been the focus of global attention due to the virus circulation.