ISLAMABAD: The Government of Japan announced a US $ 4.35 million grant to procure essential oral polio vaccines as part of its continued support to Pakistan for its polio eradication efforts. This latest grant will be utilized for the procurement of 24 million oral doses of vaccines. It will allow the programme to reach around 21 million children under five years of old with a focus on the high-risk districts with persistent poliovirus transmission. The vaccines will be used during vaccination drives planned in 2022, said a news release issued here on Monday. According to the National Action Plan (NEAP) 2021-2023, the Polio Porgramme’s strategic goal is to permanently interrupt all poliovirus transmission in Pakistan by the end of 2023. The notes of the grant were signed and exchanged between the Government of Japan and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the grant agreement was signed and exchanged between Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and UNICEF. “The Polio eradication efforts made substantive progress this year by limiting the virus circulation resulted in a significant decrease of Polio cases despite challenges posed by COVID-19. The programme is confident to permanently interrupt all types of polioviruses by the end of 2023,” said Dr. Shahzad Baig, National Coordinator of the Pakistan Polio Eradication Programme. Appreciating the support of the Government of Japan, Dr. Shahzad said, “We are grateful to the people and the Government of Japan for their unwavering support for the children of Pakistan, the new funding will enable us to reach every child with the essential polio vaccine.” Ambassador of Japan in Pakistan WADA Mitsuhiro appreciated the significant progress made this year in controlling the spread of poliovirus, saying “we are now only one step away from the goal, polio-free Pakistan.” He reiterated his support to the initiative for eradicating all types of poliovirus by the end of 2023 noting, “Japan has provided assistance in maternal and child health, polio eradication, and routine immunization in Pakistan for decades and will continue its support that will directly benefit vulnerable people.” “We are glad to witness collaborative effort between Polio program and Expanded Program on Immunization, represented by recently conducted Measles-Rubella and Polio campaign. We are also honored that numerous Polio program experiences are utilized to fight against COVID-19, such as the 1166 helpline, PCR test capacity at Polio Laboratory, and vaccinators’ training by JICA Project. We have a strong desire to witness all types of poliovirus interruption by the end of 2023 as suggested by the Government of Pakistan. We appreciate the unwavering leadership of the Government of Pakistan, with the highest respect to the frontline health workers,” said Shigeki Furuta, Chief Representative, JICA. “Pakistan has achieved tremendous success against interrupting Poliovirus this year. From 84 reported polio cases in the year 2020, the incidence has come down to one case in the last eleven months,” said Aida Girma, UNICEF Representative in Pakistan, highlighting the consistent efforts of the government and partners. “The last mile towards eradication, however, will be tough and requires continues support from the partners like the Government of Japan to achieve a polio-free status,” said Aida while acknowledging the support of the people and Government of Japan.