Saira for inclusion of polio issue in Taliban peace talks

ISLAMABAD: Minister of State for Health Services, Regulation and Coordination, Saira Afzal Tarar on Wednesday said that polio vaccination issue should be part of on-going dialogue process with the Taliban.

Talking to media persons here, the minister said that political agents, Governor of Khyber-Pakthunkhwa and all concerned are working to meet the task of polio free FATA and other border areas.

She said that the ministry has shown its displeasure on such recommendation of WHO related with Pakistan as the government has taken sincere steps for complete elimination of polio due to which mainly cases are being reported only from such restricted areas where all types of actions are suspended.

She however said that due to civil-military joint strategy and efforts, now children are being immunized in these areas. She said that provincial governments are providing full security to polio workers.

Commenting on restriction of Pakistani passengers to move abroad, the minister made it clear that the WHO was actually recommended Pakistan regarding polio virus under which those passengers who will travel from Pakistan will have to get polio drops and vaccination certificates.

She however said that the present government will take sincere steps for removal of such temporary recommendation.

She added Pakistan will fully implement the recommendation of WHO.

The minister said that the government of Pakistan will appeal WHO for provision of financial support for purchase of polio vaccine and other logistic support.

She said several innovative steps have been proposed by representatives of all provinces in today’s meeting to eliminate polio virus from the country.

She added the meeting also reviewed polio immunization program to make it more effective.

She said that it has been decided that the government will establish an Ulema advisory council for polio immunization.

She said that a joint comprehensive strategy has been planned and there will be uniform system.

She said that all provincial governments are ready to implement this plan within one week.

She said there will be a uniform card with serial number for polio vaccine verification to be issued by the federal government and will be provided to provinces.

She added an official of 19 grade will be authorized to sign on this card in provinces, which are available for passengers.

She said that central health establishment centres will be set up at airports to facilitate the passengers.

She said around 27,000 passengers daily travel from Pakistan by using different means of communication.

She added the government is already using a huge amount of Rs 800 million on polio vaccination annually and it is very difficult to vaccinate people in such a large number on daily basis and sought WHO assistance in this regard.

Replying to a question, the minister said that the government of Saudi Arabia will provide polio vaccine to Pakistani pilgrims at time of their arrival.

She said that those Pakistanis who have foreign passports and living here for four weeks will have to administer polio drops before leaving abroad.

She said “We don’t want to waste time and it is our international responsibility to take steps. The government will talk to WHO Pakistan head for not disturbing Pakistani passengers during 15 days.”

She requested the media to show social responsibility and educate people about the issue.

She said that the polio vaccine being used in Pakistan is safe and according to international standard and recommend by WHO.