With the support of Mohamed bin Zayed, Emirates Polio Campaign completes world’s first polio vaccination campaign since COVID-19 outbreak

With the support of Mohamed bin Zayed, Emirates Polio Campaign completes world’s first polio vaccination campaign since COVID-19 outbreak

ABU DHABI, 3rd August, 2020 (WAM) -- As part of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces’ global initiative to eradicate polio, the UAE Pakistan Assistance Programme announced that the Emirates Polio Campaign successfully vaccinated 722,500 children in Pakistan between 20th-26th July, 2020. The initiative is considered the world's first polio vaccination campaign since the outbreak of COVID-19.

Abdullah Khalifa Al-Ghafli, Director of the UAE Pakistan Assistance Programme, highlighted that the initiative reflects the UAE leadership’s commitment to strengthen global cooperation to prevent the spread of epidemics, as well as to protect children and support global polio eradication efforts.

Al-Ghafli added that the Emirates Polio Campaign was successful in vaccinating 722,500 Pakistani children during the vaccination period, a 94.3% success rate against the campaign’s target of 766,000 children. "This campaign is the first of its kind in the world to vaccinate children against polio since the spread of COVID-19, after a break of nearly 4 months in vaccination efforts," he said.

He highlighted that the campaign targeted areas in Pakistan that had witnessed polio outbreaks, with total cases climbing above 60 cases to date in 2020. The week-long campaign reached areas of high security risk, where children are especially threatened and vulnerable to disease and communities must contend with poor health care infrastructure. The geographical scope of the campaign included tribal areas in the South Waziristan region, the city of Quetta in the Balochistan province, Attock and Faisalabad in Punjab, and Karachi in the Sindh province.

Al-Ghafli pointed out that the campaign adhered to stringent planning and preventative measures in response to COVID-19. More than 3,465 vaccination teams and security personnel underwent training on field safety precautions and COVID-19 risks, particularly with regards to dealing with children. They were also equipped with Personal Protection Equipment, PPE, including uniforms, masks, gloves, and sterilization materials.

This effort was complimented by an awareness campaign on traditional and social media to encourage parents to be proactive in vaccinating their children. Furthermore, parents were educated on protecting their children from polio, as well as from the risk of contracting COVID-19.

Precautionary measures for vaccination teams during the campaign included conducting comprehensive COVID-19 tests and ensuring their safety from infection. There were also a number of restrictions on vaccination teams, which worked in small groups of two. Health workers over 50 years of age and those with chronic diseases could not take part. Measures also included implementing social distancing, especially with regards to direct contact with children during vaccination, and protecting vaccines from contamination from other parties. As part of the preventative measures taken, parents were involved directly in the vaccination process and were instructed to sanitise their hands before vaccinating their children and to wear masks, which were distributed for free.

Al-Ghafli announced that the Emirates Polio Campaign plans to launch a new 10-day effort on 17th August, 2020, targeting 15,526,000 Pakistani children in 85 regions in Pakistan. An implementation plan has been developed involving 96,000 vaccination and security team members.

Since its launch in 2014, the UAE vaccination campaign has provided 455,956,226 polio vaccine doses to more than 86 million Pakistani children.

His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed has committed US$327.8 million since 2011 to support global efforts to eradicate polio, with a special focus on Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The Emirates Polio Campaign works in cooperation with the command of the Pakistani Armed Forces, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, the Pakistani Ministry of National Health Services, and Ministries of Health offices in the provincial governments. Partners cooperate to deliver vaccines, protect vaccination teams, plan and organise operations for targeted populations, and follow-up on field implementation to ensure the success of the campaign.