PESHAWAR, Dec 19: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa health department says that it will resume the anti-polio campaign after three days to immunise the remaining children in the province.
The province was facing a gigantic task of reaching the missed children and convincing the parents, who refused vaccination of their children, it said, adding that the unvaccinated children posed threats to immunised ones.
“We can’t afford to stop the drive for longer period of times because it will render our struggle against polio ineffective,” the health officials said.
They said that they needed desperately a full-scale campaign to end the virus to fulfil the government’s commitment to eradicate the vaccine preventable childhood ailment.
The officials said that elected representatives were being involved in the vaccination campaign to reach the missed children with the help of community and also convince the defiant parents for vaccinating their children.
The government is also planning to avoid pump and shows and display of posters and banners on the vaccination days to escape attention of militants, who don’t allow vaccination.
“We have vaccinated 2.81 million children in the initial two days of the campaign against the total target of 5.2 million while 2.39 million still remain unvaccinated,” Dr Imtiaz Ali Shah, focal person for polio at the Chief Minister’s Secretariat, told Dawn.
He said that they had to immunise all the children because they had more 80,000 children, who remained unimmunised in every campaign either owing to their parents’ refusal or non-availability in their homes at the time of vaccination.
“The campaign will be resumed on Saturday if the government allows us to immunise the remaining children,” Dr Imtiaz said.
He said that vaccinators usually missed about 20 per cent children during the three-day campaign and such children were covered on the fourth and fifth day during special drives.
Dr Imtiaz said that about 15 per cent of those missed children were covered on the fourth day and five per cent on the fifth day of the special campaign.
He said that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa recorded 25 polio cases, the highest number of 56 nationwide cases registered by any province. The Federally Administered Tribal Areas recorded 20 cases, Sindh and Balochistan four cases each and Punjab two while Gilgit-Baltistan recorded one polio case.
The official said that the campaign being last of the current year was most important particularly for high-risk districts of Peshawar, Mardan, Nowshera and Charsadda where polio virus was in circulation and posing threats to children.
“There was no prior threat to vaccinators in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The government is devising a strategy to ensure protection of vaccinators before resumption of the campaign,” said an official in health secretariat.
He said that they didn’t expect such an aggressive opposition to polio vaccine and that all happened so quickly that they failed to respond effectively to protect their workers.
According to the official, the government couldn’t provide police to all teams but a strategy was being devised to reach the missed children.
Announcements were also made through loudspeakers, urging people to administer anti-polio vaccine to their children to safeguard them against the crippling ailment, he said.