PM Shehbaz summons National Task Force meeting after first polio case detected in 15 months


ISLAMABAD: Following the detection of the first polio case in Pakistan after a gap of 15 months, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif summoned a meeting of the National Task Force on Polio Eradication on Monday.

The premier has sought a report from the authorities concerned on the reasons behind the detection of type-1 wild poliovirus (WPV1) in the North Waziristan region, directing them to formulate an action plan for polio eradication.

This is the third case of wild polio to be recorded globally in 2022,  reported.

The type-1 wild poliovirus (WPV1) was confirmed in a 15-month-old boy on April 22, 2022 with the onset of paralysis on April 9, National Polio Laboratory housed within the National Institute of Health (NIH) reported.

The laboratory has also confirmed the detection of a positive environmental sample collected on April 5, 2022, from the Khyber Pakhtwnkha’s Bannu district. Both these viruses are closely related. Pakistan had reported one polio case last year on January 27, 2021 in Killa Abdullah, Balochistan.

Commenting on the development, Secretary Health Aamir Ashraf said: “This is, of course, a tragedy for the child and his family and it is also very unfortunate both for Pakistan and polio eradication efforts all over the world. We are disappointed but not deterred.”

“The case has appeared in southern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where poliovirus was detected in the environment late last year and where an emergency action plan is already being implemented.

“The National and Provincial Polio Emergency Operations Centres have deployed teams to conduct a full investigation of the recent case, while emergency immunisation campaigns are underway to prevent further spread of the wild poliovirus in Pakistan.”

Southern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa had been identified by the polio programme as the area most at risk after wild poliovirus was detected in environmental samples in the last quarter of 2021. The positive samples had been found in DI Khan and Bannu divisions.

National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) Coordinator Dr Shahzad Baig said: “This validates the programme’s concerns about virus circulation in southern KP and strengthens our resolve to reach every child with the polio vaccine.”

In 2020, the KP province reported 22 cases, while no wild poliovirus cases were recorded in the province last year. Substantial progress has been made recently, with most areas accessible to implement immunisation campaigns, but deep-rooted problems and security concerns remain in limited areas. Despite the challenges, the programme’s brave frontline workers continue to reach children with the life-saving vaccine.