KABUL: Public health minister Dr. Ferozuddin Feroz on Sunday said Afghanistan was closer than ever in history to defeating polio with only a few places remaining where the virus was still transmitting.
Speaking at the launch of the second round of “National Immunization Days (NIDS)” for polio eradication at a religious school in Kabul Dr. Feroz said: “The support of religious scholars is a game changer for the fight against polio. Islam emphasizes the importance of protection against diseases.”
The nationwide campaign formally beginning today (Monday) was jointly inaugurated by the ministries of Public Health and Education at the madarasa attended by many Islamic religious scholars along with teachers and students.
Starting today, the campaign will last until May 11. During the campaign, oral polio vaccine (OPV) will be given to more than 9.9 million children below five years of age. In addition, deworming tablets will also be given to 5.9 million children aged between two and five years.
Dr. Feroz said the start of the high transmission season increased the risk of polio virus spreading and as a result children were being paralyzed.
“It is important for all caregivers to get their children protected from the virus by vaccinating …The high transmission season for polio virus is about to start, and this is the last campaign which is organized before it …an important opportunity for parents to protect their children.”
Dedicated polio workers will visit houses to reach every last child across Afghanistan to ensure all children are immunized. Afghanistan has the largest number of polio cases in the world.
Speaking at the event, Dr. Shafiq Samim, Deputy Minister for Islamic Teachings at the Ministry of Education, emphasized the importance health and well-being of all members of society, particularly the children, from the perspective of Islamic values.
“Disabled and paralyzed children will not have a bright future and it is the responsibility of parents to protect their children against this crippling disease by vaccinating them in each round of the polio vaccination campaigns.” The representatives of WHO and UNICEF and a number of Islamic religious scholars also spoke in the event, and stressed the importance communities cooperating with the polio eradication efforts. The polio vaccine is extremely safe and very effective and has been endorsed by leading religious scholars in Afghanistan and throughout the Islamic world.
Only Afghanistan and Pakistan have recorded any cases of polio in 2017 and 2018. While any child anywhere carries the poliovirus, all children around the world remain at risk of this crippling disease.
The oral polio vaccine builds immunity gradually, and several doses are needed for children to be fully protected against paralysis. To eradicate polio in Afghanistan, it is crucial to vaccinate all children in every polio campaign until they reach age of five.
Currently, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria are the only three remaining polio-endemic countries in the world. Nigeria has not recorded any cases since August 2016. Afghanistan has recorded seven cases of polio this year and Pakistan has recorded one case to date.