Arrangements Made to Launch New Polio Vaccine From July

The federal government has made all arrangements to launch the much-awaited and costly vaccine named Injectable/Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV) all over the country from July this year. 

The vaccine will provide cover to children against nine diseases and it will be a permanent feature under the government’s Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI).

polio vaccine

The four provincial governments have been conveyed to give a final shape to cold-chain arrangements to provide one-doze of IPV to all the target children in their respective provinces through the routine immunisation drive, starting from July this year. The salient feature of the new initiative was GAVI’s decision to waive co-financial obligation in the agreement with the federal government and it will now provide free vaccines (IPV) to Pakistan till 2018, a senior official told Dawn on Wednesday. Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, is a public-private global health partnership which is committed to increasing access to immunisation in poor countries. The official said the development came after polio vaccination campaigns suffered setbacks in the country despite continuous efforts. Pakistan is also facing travel restrictions for being a major supplier of polio virus to the rest of the world.

WHO guidelines have declared vaccine mandatory for all travellers in Pakistan regardless of age.

Despite declaring a national emergency, Pakistan has miserable failed in its battle against polio by reporting highest number of cases all over the world so far. From July onward both the oral polio vaccine and injectable polio vaccine (OPV-IPV) will be part of the routine immunisation programme under the Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan of Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI). The IPV is said to be highly effective in preventing paralytic disease caused by all three types of poliovirus and is being currently used by a majority of polio-free developed and advanced countries. Dr Rana Mohammad Safdar, Manager of the National Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI), told to Dawn that Gavi had confirmed its commitment to introduce IPV in Pakistan in response to an application filed by the federal government. He said GAVI had accepted Pakistan’s request for abolishing co-financing obligations to strengthen routine immunisation in the country which was really a major initiative to protect millions of children from the crippling disease.

Now GAVI will bear 100 per cent expenses on the IPV import, he said. Dr Safdar said that around 6.2 million infants were born in Pakistan each year and according to the plan, these children would also be administered IPV all over the country in the routine drive beginning from July this year. He said on the request of the federal government, provinces had finalised all arrangements to maintain cold chains for the safety of the newly imported IPV. “China has made a significant contribution by extending technical and logistic support to Pakistan to introduce IPV,” Dr Safdar said. He said the Chinese government had recently provided a huge stock of cold rooms, refrigerators and other equipment costing $10 million to Pakistan for the IPV introduction. 

“We have distributed all these equipment to provinces,” he said, adding that China had also provided solar refrigerators to combat load-shedding issues. The federal government had requested China to extend financial help to Pakistan shortly after GAVI showed its commitment to provide IPV vaccine free of cost. “The Chinese government also dispatched a team of engineers to install equipment who trained Pakistani experts to make them operational,” he said. To a question, the National EPI manager said the IPV worked 10 times fast in enhancing immunity in children against the disease as compared to the OPV.