Islamabad - Vaccinating children against polio is considered a religious obligation to protect the children’s health and lives, said the National Islamic Advisory Group (NIAG) on Tuesday.

Members of NIAG core group met here at the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) to review the national and provincial work plans and ensure alignment with the eradication program plan under the National Emergency Action Plan (NEAP) 2017-18.

Chair of the core group of NIAG Maulana Hanif Jalandhri, said NIAG’s support to the polio eradication campaign will continue until Pakistan is polio-free and all children are safe from the virus.

“I make sure that my grandchildren do not miss their polio drops each time the vaccination teams knock on my door,” Maulana Jalandhri said.

The statement issued by Ministry of National Health Services & Regulations (NHS&R) said that the program environmental surveillance network informed them about the detection of positive polio sewage samples from key locations of Islamabad-Rawalpindi, Karachi, Quetta and Killa Abdullah.

The importance of sustaining gains made in Khyber-Peshawar is also critical.

The polio virus has the ability to paralyze children as long as they are sub-optimally protected either because of parents’ refusals or being missed for other reasons.

The data shows that there are still a large number of vulnerable children who were not able to get vaccinated during last year’s campaigns.

Prime Minister’s Focal Person for Polio Eradication Senator Ayesha Raza Farooq lauded the role of religious scholars in addressing questions and misconceptions of communities, families, and parents regarding polio vaccines. It played a key role in reaching and vaccinating the missed children.

“Despite bringing down the number of polio patients to a record low, anything less than vaccination of every single child in Pakistan from the menace cannot be acceptable”, Senator Farooq said.

She said that parents must be made aware that polio invades the child’s body, and physically disables him or her for life.

NEOC Coordinator, Dr Rana Muhammad Safdar highlighted that, in order to eradicate the virus, efforts must be taken to block the virus from finding a host. He said that any child who is not fully vaccinated is at risk of catching the virus.

Former federal minister and chair of Polio Plus Ulema Committee, Maulana Hanif Tayyab said that the support of religious leaders has been instrumental in increasing vaccine acceptance and reaching the missed children in communities across Pakistan.

“It is our duty and responsibility as religious community leaders to ensure that parents vaccinate their children, who are five years or less, against this debilitating but preventable disease,” he said

NIAG was formed in June 2013 on the recommendations of Islamic Advisory Group (IAG). The role undertaken by Islamic scholars across Pakistan has been vital in guiding the religious leaders of communities across the country on the importance of vaccination, dispelling misconceptions about the vaccine and building trust among their communities.