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Punjab may deploy polio teams for Covid vaccination

LAHORE: To overcome the issue of slow pace of Covid vaccination campaign in Punjab, the health authorities have proposed to the government to launch a drive on the pattern of anti-polio drive to reach out to the targeted adult population by the end of December, to achieve the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) objective.

The issue came under discussion in a meeting presided over by the Punjab chief secretary on Saturday, where the health minister, both health secretaries and NCOC representatives were also present, besides other officers.

An official privy to the information told Dawn, the meeting discussed in detail the proposal and various factors behind the slow inoculation in the population-wise largest province.

He said the NCOC had given a target of vaccinating 400,000 citizens daily to the Punjab government which was hardly covering 50 per cent of it.

As per the NCOC, the Punjab government was supposed to administer Covid vaccine to 40 million adults by the end of November this year. However, it vaccinated seven million people since Feb 3, the day when the Covid vaccination was kicked off in the province.

The official said the health authorities proposed to the Punjab government in the meeting to link the inoculation to the anti-polio drive to reach to the targeted population, as par the NCOC instructions.

As per the proposal, he said, the Punjab’s polio eradication programme had a potential to reach out to the children under five years of age in door-to-door campaigns through trained staff that included lady health workers.

In Punjab, the official said, the polio programme was being run by more than 45,000 teams of vaccinators, with the support of the respective district governments.

He said every year around 10 national and sub-national immunisation drives were launched in Punjab under the anti-polio programme. In each National Immunization Days (NIDs), the polio teams successfully vaccinate 20 million children across the province.

In the five-day campaign, the teams used to vaccinate most of the targeted children during the first three days and the missing ones were covered in the remaining two days through a catch-up drive.

The anti-polio drive was monitored and supervised accordingly at the district and provincial level, he said.

It was proposed in the meeting that the Punjab government’s anti-polio programme having a huge infrastructure comprising surveillance network, human resource, logistics and transportation facilities could be used to access the adults who were yet to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

The official said the meeting, after detailed deliberations, formally agreed to the proposal and decided to proceed it further at departmental level.

There are reports that the Covid positivity rate in Lahore again increased to 6.5 per cent, while in Punjab it was two percent during the last 24 hours.

Meanwhile, Covid claimed lives of 22 more people, including 10 in Lahore, during the same period, taking the death toll to 10,479 in Punjab.

Similarly, the total number of the infections reached 343,703 in Punjab after 204 more tested positive for the virus. Of them, 98 were reported in Lahore, the lowest number of new infections recorded in the provincial capital in a day during the last six months or so.

Other new positive cases were reported in Nankana Sahib, Hafizabad, Lodhran, Rawalpindi, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Multan, Muzaffargarh, Sahiwal, Jhang, Bahawalnagar, Khushab, Sialkot, Chiniot, Sargodha, Khanewal, Rahim Yar Khan Jhelum, Mianwali, Mandi Bahauddin, Layyah, Sheikhupura, Narowal, Gujrat, Kasur, Okara and Bhakkar.

Published in Dawn, June 13th, 2021

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