A National Routine Immunization Plan in Pakistan is in the pipeline aimed at permanently eradicating the disease from the country by next year, a Pakistani official revealed.
According to official figures, Pakistan had 306 polio cases in 2014, the highest in 14 years and majority of them were in the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. So far this year, 24 cases have been reported countrywide.
Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria are the only countries in the world which are still battling to eradicate polio. Minister of State for National Health Services, Saira Afzal Tarar said the comprehensive immunization plan would be aimed at eradicating the virus by next year.
"The prime minister has formed a Routine Immunization Committee of the federal cabinet, comprising three members, including me and the defense minister, to prepare the strategy to permanently eradicate polio from the country," she said.
She said despite the fact that anti-polio campaigns faced problems in areas where the law and order situation had worsened, a nationwide drive would be launched soon.
She added that 6,000 community health volunteers would be engaged to improve immunization coverage in low coverage union councils by distributing vaccination cards, giving polio drops to eligible children and advocating with the community on routine immunization.
Attempts to eradicate the disease have been badly hit by militant attacks on immunization teams since December 2012. Militants claim the polio vaccination drive is a front for espionage or a conspiracy to sterilize Muslims.