New anti-polio vaccine likely to yield positive results

PESHAWAR: The provincial health department has administered Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV) to children in Peshawar and Bannu districts for the first time to scale up their immunity and do away with the crippling disease.
The department has provided IPV to 280,000 children, including 224,000 in Peshawar and 56,000 in Bannu, on the recommendation of the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) as part of polio eradication strategy. 
The activity is seen as a milestone by the health department, which is facing an uphill task to eradicate the disease. 
The donor agencies want administration of IPV in other districts of the province to ensure that the disease is completely wiped out and children stay safe in future.
As opposed to the oral polio vaccine (OPV), the IPV is administered intramuscularly to the children but it has both long and short term benefits. 
The provincial government had planned the activity in October last year but it was delayed owing to some administrative problems. It was finally completed on March 30.
The administration of IPV has been recommended by TAG, the highest forum, which is responsible for suggesting measures for global polio eradication, to strengthen immunity level of the children. 
A single shot of IPV is given to the children between four to 23 months, provided they had already received at least two doses of OPV. 
It has shown positive results in the worldwide polio eradication campaign.
The OPV is given to the children from birth to 60 months but cases have been reported that children were tested positive despite having had the oral polio vaccination. 
The addition of IPV along with OPV aims to put brakes on the emergence of polio cases.
The World Health Organisation also wants administration of IPV to children after OPV as part of polio end-game strategy by June 2016. 
The provincial health department has also achieved more than 95 per cent coverage of IPV in Peshawar and Bannu districts, which have been hosting unvaccinated children from Khyber and Waziristan agencies. 
In 2014, Fata and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa together recorded 247 polio cases of the total countrywide 306 cases whereas as both have recorded 14 cases of the 21 cases in 2015. 
In the past, there had been scientific evidence that virus from Fata had infected children in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The world health agency says that both Fata and KP are responsible for hampering worldwide polio eradication efforts. It has been urging the country to take appropriate measures to safeguard not only its own population but also ensures that virus from this part of the country is not transported to the countries long declared polio-free.
WHO recommends that giving IPV to the children, who have already received OPV, brings positive results as far as protection from polio virus is concerned. It says that OPV will continue to be administered to the children because it is the only medicine to eradicate the poliomyelitis once for all. The IPV works when given to children after OPV. 
In January, the government also administered IPV to children in FR Bannu where most of the children had remained unvaccinated owing to which they continued to infect children in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Published in Dawn, April 6th, 2015
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