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Pakistan kicks off year’s first polio campaign in 2019

A health worker gives a polio vaccination to a child in Peshawar, Pakistan, Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. A Pakistani health official says the country has kicked off its first nationwide polio vaccination campaign for the year in efforts to eradicate the crippling disease by the end of 2019. Pakistan reported only eight new polio cases in 2018. (AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad)

ISLAMABAD (AP) — A Pakistani health official says the country has kicked off its first nationwide polio vaccination campaign for the year in efforts to eradicate the crippling disease by the end of 2019.

Pakistan is one of three countries in the world where polio is still endemic. The other two are Afghanistan and Nigeria.

But militant threats and deep-rooted superstition have spurred many parents, particularly in areas bordering Afghanistan, to refuse to vaccinate their children.

Rana Safdar says the drive that started on Monday is targeting 39.2 million under-five children across the country, except for some areas badly hit by winter rains. He says 260,000 staffers are involved. The campaign will try to include children who move across the Afghan-Pakistan border.

In 2018, Pakistan reported only eight new polio cases.

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