Pakistan’s polio eradication program is no longer on-track, noted the International Health Regulations (IHR) Emergency Committee, convened by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The Emergency Committee reviewed the data on wild poliovirus (WPV1) and the implementation of the WHO Temporary Recommendations in Afghanistan, DR Congo, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Somalia.
Regarding Pakistan, the Committee stated that it “is gravely concerned by the significant further increase in WPV1 cases globally this year, particularly in Pakistan.”
It added that in the country the transmission of the virus continues to be widespread and recent “cluster of cases in Lahore also indicates that vulnerabilities still exist outside the high-risk corridors.” The committee further expressed its concerns about the attacks on vaccinators and the police accompanying them.
“The increasing refusal by individuals and communities to accept vaccination also needs to be actively addressed. While the committee understood that the recent elections and political transition may have adversely affected the delivery of the polio program, it is now essential that the new government renews its efforts, noting that the eradication program in the country is no longer on-track.”
The Committee unanimously agreed that the risk of international spread of poliovirus remains a public health emergency. It noted that “the progress made in recent years appears to be reversing,” indicated by the rising number of WPV1 cases in Pakistan, the rising proportion of environmental samples that are positive for WPV1 in Afghanistan and Pakistan and the increasing resistance to polio programs.
It also recommended that the above countries ensure that all residents between four week and 12 months receive a dose of oral vaccine before international travel. In addition, the travellers be provided an international certificate of vaccination.
A total of 20 cases have been recorded in Pakistan this year to date