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Politics

Coronavirus threatens to upend Pakistan's long war against polio

39 nations at risk as public funds are diverted to fight COVID-19

A boy receives polio vaccine drops at a Karachi train station in 2016.   © Reuters

KARACHI -- In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Pakistan has had to suspend immunization for another dangerous contagion -- poliovirus -- for 40 million children under the age of five, sparking fears that the disease could spread across the country and other countries declared polio-free.

Pakistan halted mass immunization on Mar. 26 under the directives of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative -- a public-private partnership of national governments and international public health organizations. The need for social distancing, vaccine supply disruption due to closed borders and increased freight costs, and the redeployment of polio surveillance teams to COVID-19 duties led to the suspension of some polio campaigns.

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