ISLAMABAD, May 14: The federal government may decide to lodge FIRs against the executive district officers (health) if any polio case surfaces in their districts even after the vaccination campaigns.
The decision is under review at the Ministry of National Health Services Regulations and Coordination.
A senior official in the ministry told Dawn: “We are forced to review such a decision against the EDOs (health) across the country.”
He said they had recorded polio cases even with the start of this year. “This is a concern for us,” said the official.
According to data shared by the ministry official with this reporter from January to April this year, eight cases were recorded across Pakistan despite immunisation.
The official added that two cases were reported in Sindh (Bin Qasim and Dadu), four in Khyber Pakhutnkhwa (Bannu, Malakand and two in Mardan), one each in Punjab (Minawali) and Fatta (Khyber).
Last year, 58 polio cases were reported across the country which also drew ire of the international community.
The official said with the inception of the new government by the start of next month, the biggest health challenge would be limiting the spread of the polio virus. “The virus is not ending and instead become a cause for spread to other countries,” maintained the official.
“If we failed to limit the virus, Pakistan may also see travel sanctions from the international community,” asserted the official.
It is pertinent to mention that Pakistan’s former ambassador to the US Sherry Rehman had shown concern in March this year that the discovery of polio virus in Egypt had been traced to Pakistan which aggravated the concerns of the World Health Organisation and the international community.
Ms Rehman also said the United States had advised the government to seek US help to ward off possible “travelling restrictions” on Pakistan for failing to eradicate the polio virus.
The senior official in the ministry maintained that if the travel restrictions were imposed on Pakistan “by the Independent Monitoring Board, working on behalf of donor agencies based in Geneva, every Pakistani citizen travelling abroad may require a polio vaccination certificate (from local health authorities) and administration of polio drops upon arrival at the destination”.
Meanwhile, with the transfer of the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) to the ministry of national health, a senior official at the ministry said a national polio vaccination drive would be initiated once the new government takes over in June.
Despite repeated attempts, acting secretary Farooq Awan was not available to comment on the matter.