PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa health department plans to utilise the services of the elected representatives, Tabdeeli Razakaars and office-bearers belonging to Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf to create demand for oral polio vaccine in Peshawar, official sources say.

“We have put up a proposal to the health minister to involve the PTI’s MPAs and MNAs besides Tabdeeli Razakaars (TRs) in anti-polio campaign. The proposal seeks involvement of the elected representatives to create acceptability for the OPV among parents,” relevant officials told Dawn.

According to them, Peshawar had recorded one case of the total six detected in KP in 2013 and was a host to polio virus that put at risk not only the local children but also those who visited the provincial capital from other areas.

The environmental sample from Peshawar has been testing positive for polio virus since November 2012, which warranted drastic measures to woo parents on vaccination and improve the quality of immunisation campaign, they said.

We are banking on PTI because it had won majority of the assembly seats in May 11 elections from Peshawar, they said.

The plan would hopefully get approval in a couple of days after which we would hold workshops for the members of assemblies and TRs to scale up their knowledge about the significance of the OPV in elimination of polio virus from the province, they said.

“The MPs and TRs have already been in contact with the people and the residents know them, therefore, we expect them to utilise their political influence for the eradication of the disease,” officials said.

In the last province-wide campaign conducted from Aug 19 to 21, we have recorded 94 per cent OPV coverage but still the quality of campaign was not up to the mark due to which children risked the crippling childhood ailments, officials said. Lack of proper monitoring is the main obstacle in doing away with the ailment as despite better OPV coverage we recorded cases from Mardan, Malakand, Bannu and Kohat.

Under the plan, the PTI activists would be engaged in the campaign’s monitoring to ensure that the children received OPV at the union council level, they added.

“We will also engage the TRs to act as paid vaccinators because there is a problem in finding volunteers after attacks on polio teams,” officials said. The TRs, they said were also part of the PTI’s programme of bringing about change in the province.

“They have great opportunity to become part of the anti-polio campaign to prevail upon the people to administer OPV to their children,” he said.

All the MPs would be requested to own the polio programme as PTI’s chairman had several times pledged to ensure protection of children from the avoidable diseases, they added.

Officials argue that PTI’s MPs and workers can help the polio eradication in the province as they have also been making efforts for the resolution of other problems of the people due to which they are respected in their communities.

Once the situation in Peshawar shows improvement, change would also occur in other districts, they said. Later on, we can replicate the same strategy in other districts also to ensure that 52 million children in KP are vaccinated in every campaign, they said.

“We are hopeful that the strategy can work because it was far easier for the elected people and political workers to ensure vaccination of all children than employing officials to convince the people on immunisation,” they said.

They can also help in coping with about 30,000 refusal cases, they said. Efforts by UN agencies have proved futile to do away with refusals despite spending heavily.

“The plan will make a difference because the Peshawarites respect PTI and could respond to its MPs and workers,” they said. It would be a reliable work force that can be used to create social acceptability for the OPV, they said.

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