Army chief and Bill Gates discuss coronavirus, resumption of polio drive in Pakistan

The army chief and Bill Gates also discussed the efforts needed to effectively conduct the polio campaign amidst the COVID-19 epidemic — File photo

RAWALPINDI: Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa spoke to Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, on Saturday to discuss the coronavirus situation and the resumption of the polio vaccination campaign in Pakistan.

Gates in his phone call conveyed his appreciation for the Pakistan Army for supporting the national polio drive and ensuring proper reach and coverage.

The army chief said it was a national cause and national effort for a polio-free Pakistan. “Credit goes to grassroots workers including mobile teams, Law Enforcement Agencies and healthcare representatives,” the army chief was quoted as saying by Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR).

The two also discussed the efforts needed to effectively conduct the polio campaign amidst the COVID-19 epidemic.

“Mr Gates also appreciated Pakistan’s success against COVID-19 despite resource constraints. COAS attributed the success to a true national response executed through the mechanism of NCOC which allowed optimisation of resources,” the military’s media wing said.

It added, “Mr Gates reiterated The Gates Foundation ongoing commitment to fight pandemics around the world and to support Pakistan in its goals of ending polio and improving health for every child.”

Nationwide polio campaign begins

A nationwide polio immunisation campaign was launched in the country on Thursday from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to vaccinate 34 million children under the age of five in 130 districts across the country.

The campaign will kick-start in Punjab and Sindh today and on August 17 in Balochistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK).

The campaign will be conducted following the successful resumption of polio activities in July 2020 after a four-month suspension due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is imperative that Pakistan continues its fight against polio with an already accessible, safe and widely used vaccine that has saved countless children from polio worldwide. I am hopeful that parents will continue to realize the importance of vaccinating their children during this campaign in August and help our nation ultimately end the threat of polio,” Dr Faisal Sultan, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Health Services said on the occasion.

As with the last campaign held in July, polio vaccinators will continue to adhere to stringent operating procedures while vaccinating children to protect themselves and families from COVID-19. Vaccinators have been trained ahead of the campaign to undertake prevention measures, including keeping a safe distance from children and families while administering drops and ensuring that parents themselves hold their children.

According to Dr Rana Safdar, Coordinator of the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) of the Pakistan Polio Eradication Programme, the campaign in August would help Pakistan tackle increased virus transmission within hotspots of virus circulation across the nation.

“The August campaign is much bigger than the last campaign held in July, we are hoping to reach many more vulnerable children.

I was encouraged with the success of our last campaign, particularly how parents cooperated with vaccinators despite the COVID environment, and how our vaccinators followed the COVID safety precautions they were trained on,” he said.


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