Pakistan has not recorded any new case of polio in seven months, officials said on Friday, rekindling hopes that the country could eventually eradicate the disease from the region.
This has been one of the last in the world where it has long been endemic.
The last case found was in January, with a child infected in a remote town in the south-western province of Balochistan, Pakistan’s health chief Faisal Sultan said.
“That’s the only case we have recorded this year,” said Dr Shahzad Baig, head of the country’s UN-funded polio eradication programme.
The decline was seen as a huge success, as the numbers had fallen from 84 new cases last year and 147 in 2019, Baig said.
Pakistan, one of the two countries where people suffered the crippling disease, alongside neighbouring Afghanistan, planned to launch another vaccination campaign next week, Sultan said.
Thousands of health workers, mostly young women, take part in door-to-door campaigns nationwide multiple times a year, where they give the two-drop vaccine to children up to the age of five.
Around 40 million children receive the vaccine in each campaign, Baig told dpa.
The programme chief attributed the success in bringing infection numbers down to a new official policy targeting children in areas where parents refuse to allow their offspring to be vaccinated.
Restrictions on movement during the pandemic and a better hygiene regime also helped cut numbers, Baig added.
Militants linked with al-Qaeda have attacked polio vaccinators, killing a dozen and undermining the campaign.
The militants claim that the health workers are acting as spies and claimed the polio vaccine seeks to sterilise Muslim children.