A nine-member Pakistani delegation has arrived in India to learn from its experience of polio eradication.
Pakistan saw a manifold rise in polio cases this year, and is one of the three countries, along with Afghanistan and Nigeria, where the infectious viral disease is still prevalent.
India became polio-free in January this year, after one full year without a single case being reported. It has subsequently been removed from the WHO list of polio-endemic countries.
Led by Shahnaz Wazir Ali, Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani's special assistant on polio, the Pakistan team will call on officials of the Union Health Ministry here on Thursday.
The delegation, comprising health officials of districts along the Indian border, will also visit a polio camp. Altaf Bosan, National Coordinator of the Prime Minister on Polio, will accompany the team.
Meanwhile, WHO, in a resolution, has impressed on member-states with polio virus transmission to declare it a “national public health emergency,” making polio virus eradication a national priority programme, requiring the development and full implementation of emergency action plans, to be updated every six months, till such time the virus transmission has been interrupted.
The resolution declares completion of polio virus eradication a programmatic emergency for global public health, requiring full implementation of the existing and new eradication strategies, the institution of strong national oversight, and accountability mechanisms for all areas affected with the virus.
The members have been asked to eliminate unimmunised areas and maintain very high population immunity against polio viruses through routine immunisation. Where necessary, they should supplement immunisation activities, maintain vigil for polio virus importation and emergence of circulating vaccine-derived polio viruses, and to make available urgently the financial resources required for the full and continued implementation, till 2013, of the strategic approaches to interrupt polio virus transmission globally, and to initiate planning for financing to the end of 2018 the polio endgame strategy.
More importantly, the resolution asks the WHO Director-General to undertake the development, scientific vetting and rapid finalisation of a comprehensive eradication and endgame strategy, and inform the member-states of the potential timing of a switch from the trivalent to bivalent oral polio virus vaccine for all routine immunisation programmes, and to coordinate with all partners including manufacturers to promote research, production and supply of vaccines to enhance their affordability, effectiveness and accessibility.