THE recent attacks on women anti-polio workers across the country are appalling and condemnable. However, these brutal incidents have also highlighted the grim fact that the lack of awareness, illiteracy and intensified religious extremism have slowly induced our society towards a situation where people are becoming victim to myths and tales associated with vaccination campaigns.

For example, opinion of self-proclaimed and ignorant clerics regarding how polio vaccines contribute towards infertility holds more importance among the masses than what medical science has to say on the issue. Consequently, many people view polio vaccinators as ill-intentioned intruders, rather than well-meaning volunteers who are donating their time and efforts just to save the future generation from a crippling disease.

In the light of the above scenario, I believe that providing security to the team of health workers will only provide a short-term solution. The problem will only be resolved permanently if vaccination campaigns are supported by awareness programmes. The government should publish and air advertisements in print and electronic media, including social networking websites, with an aim to counter myths and engineered facts.

Providing relevant literature in the form of small, illustrated booklets and brochures, especially designed for the low-income population and including local paramedic staff, dispensaries, clinics, etc., to educate people on health-related issues, are some of the other suggestions.

We must realise that it is only aware and willing parents who can ensure that such deplorable incidents do not happen again. If we desire a healthy future for our country, the first step is to inculcate awareness.

UROOJ JAFRI     Karachi

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