Improving Immunization and Fighting Polio in Pakistan

Polio remains endemic in only two countries: Afghanistan and Pakistan. Apart from polio campaigns, broader support for immunization is essential to eradicate polio. Two weeks ago (on April 21, 2016), the World Bank approved an International Development Association (IDA) credit of $50 million to increase the availability of vaccines for infectious diseases, including polio, for children under two years of age in Pakistan.  Additional funding to the amount of $80 million is provided by a World Bank administered multi-donor trust fund, Gavi – the Vaccine Alliance, and the United States Agency for International Development. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation also participates through a buy-down mechanism (on what a buy-down amounts to, click here). Below is information on the project reproduced from the World Bank’s website (the original link for the information is here).

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The National Immunization Support Project (NISP) is supporting the country’s Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) that aims to immunize all children against eight vaccine preventable diseases:  tuberculosis, poliomyelitis, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, hepatitis B, haemophilus influenza type b (Hib), and measles. Strengthening EPI will also support Pakistan’s access to newer vaccines which are either in the process of roll out (pneumococcal vaccine) or under planning (rotavirus vaccine).

The Project is also receiving additional support of $80 million grant from a World Bank administered multi-donor trust fund, Gavi – the Vaccine Alliance, and the United States Agency for International Development. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is also supporting the project through an innovative partial conversion of the IDA credit into a grant upon successful achievement of project objectives.

“Pakistan is grappling with the public health emergency of polio virus transmission. Ensuring strong routine immunization services is the first essential pillar in polio eradication”, says Illango Patchamuthu, World Bank Country Director for Pakistan. “The World Bank and other development partners are working with the Government of Pakistan to strengthen routine immunization services at the critical endgame stage of polio eradication, particularly as Pakistan introduces injectable polio vaccine into its routine schedule”.

The project will incentivize provincial government capacity for rigorous monitoring and effective implementation of its program, including strengthened vaccine logistics, and deploying and expanding qualified technical and managerial personnel.

“Pakistan’s performance in maternal and child health remains weak and inadequate immunization coverage is a major challenge. Childhood immunization against vaccine preventable diseases can help in significant reductions in disability and death”, says Robert Oelrichs, World Bank Task Team Leader of the Project. “The project will establish linkages of the federal and provincial EPI cells with private sector health providers and health-related civil society organizations (CSOs) working in low coverage catchment areas – especially urban slums.”

Children under two years of age in Pakistan are the main beneficiaries of NISP – particularly children belonging to the poorest households in which immunization coverage is lowest. In addition, all children will benefit from strengthened polio and measles interventions.

The credit is financed by IDA, the World Bank’s fund for the poor, with a maturity of 25 years, including a grace period of 5 years.

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