January 31, 2018
January 31, 2018: Since the inception of the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) in Pakistan Polio has been a part of EPI, but in year 2014, keeping in view the emerging situation in Pakistan in terms interruption of polio virus transmission, National Emergency Operation Centre (NEOC) was created. The EPI and Polio Eradication initiative (PEI) are two programmes working together to improve immunity among the children of Pakistan – EPI and PEI but after making considerable gains in fights against polio, both teams have planned to synergize to boost the routine immunization.
JICA has been supporting polio eradication programme since 1996. In 2017, JICA dispatched JICA Polio Eradication Programme Advisor to NEOC which helped to contribute immensely towards synergy between the two programmes. As a member of the National Synergy Task Team (NSTT) to support EPI-PEI Synergy activities, the JICA advisor along with the Supplementary Immunization Activities (SIA) Task Team worked hard and demonstrated progress on the coordination of PEI and EPI team. It has resulted in several activities at the ground level such as EPI Measles SIA support, capacity building of EPI surveillance officers by PEI team, or coverage of zero Routine Immunization (RI) dose children during the post-Polio campaign phase by EPI vaccinators.
The first National EPI-PEI Synergy Coordination workshop chaired jointly by National EPI Manager and National PEI Coordinator was held on January 30-31, 2018 with support of the JICA advisor. The objective of this workshop was to improve a common understanding and finding areas of cooperation between the two programmes. Presentations given by National EPI Manager, National PEI Coordinator, and Synergy focal persons from each province helped to identify some of those key areas where cooperation can be extended and immediate results could be obtained to not only create demand for routine immunization but also sustain the gains made by polio programme. Furthermore, feedback from the participants helped the managers to better understand the ground realities and existing opportunities for cooperation.
During two days' workshop, one of the main activity was to develop a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for EPI-PEI Synergy activities to strengthen routine immunization especially in Tier 1 districts. EPI and PEI managers and concerned officers from each province exchanged notes and ideas to agree on various modalities of cooperation at the grass roots level. It included defining the "How to coordinate", "Who is responsible hence accountable" and "What data / action points have to be considered" for starting a sustainable and gradual cooperation mechanism starting from Union Council level all the way up to provincial and national level. The workshop concluded with the finalization of the SOPs, an action plan for the next quarter (April-June), and its implementation at the district/Union Council level.
Based on the agreed SOPs and action plan for 2018, Federal EPI is to take a lead to strengthen routine immunization activities in collaborating with PEI team towards polio eradication to sustain the gains of Polio.