ISLAMABAD, Oct 17: Almost one million Pakistani children were left out of a polio vaccination drive which ended on Wednesday, officials said, as unrest and flooding limited access and some parents viewed the campaign as a western ‘conspiracy’.

According to the data collected by AFP, some 998,569 children of the 32 million targeted during the three-day nationwide drive, backed by the government and World Health Organisation, were left unvaccinated against the crippling disease.

WHO Senior Coordinator for Polio Vaccination Dr Elias Durry said the huge number of missed children was a ‘cause of concern’.

“While we can celebrate the achievement of vaccinating millions of children during every polio campaign, finding and vaccinating the repeatedly missed children should be the top priority of all the polio teams across the country.” Government health officials said that most of the one million children remained unvaccinated because of access issues, unrest in Balochistan and flooding in many parts of Sindh.

They said that many parents in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa viewed immunisation as a ‘conspiracy’. In less turbulent areas, health workers failed to carry out follow-up visits or make enough effort to visit houses ‘far away’.

Gunmen on Tuesday killed a polio vaccinator on the outskirts of Quetta, a day after the campaign kicked off.

Pakistan is one of only three countries where the highly infectious disease remains endemic, along with Afghanistan and Nigeria.

There have been 30 confirmed cases of polio in Pakistan this year according to the government, 22 of them in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.—AFP

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