PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government’s Sehat Ka Insaf (SKI) programme, which came to an end on Sunday after a vigorous vaccination campaign, virtually failed to address the problem of refusals against oral polio vaccine and missed children. However, the single-day vaccination campaigns under the programme – instead of three-day or longer campaigns – has given a clear idea about next measures to eradicate the virus.
As a new case of polio was reported in Peshawar on Monday, bringing the total number of cases to eight in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa of the nationwide 50 cases, authorities are facing a daunting challenge to reap fruit of the long and tiresome campaign. The health department has missed over 30,000 children who were not present during the door-to-door campaign. It wouldn’t be a problem because vaccinators were mostly local people and they knew about the houses of such children who didn’t get OPV.
There are about 7,000 chronic refusal cases in Peshawar recorded under the SKI, the same number prevailed even before the programme. This time, the health department has a clear data of the houses where they faced defiance against the OPV.
Vaccinators have visited the houses at least 10 times in the campaign and they know about the cause of refusals. In the initial campaign, the number of refusals was about 17,000 most of which were covered because of the interventions by PTI Tabdeeli Razakaars and leaders.
From the data gathered during the SKI programme, it is easy to find the refusing families and cover them in an immediate drive. Similarly, the vaccination coverage during the campaign remained less than 80 per cent in 21 union councils which is far below the national target set in the National Emergency Action Plan for Polio by the federal government. An immediate plan is needed to vaccinate children in some UCs which recorded between 50 and 60 per cent immunisation because they pose threat to vaccinated children.
The technical staff involved in the SKI programme could take advantage of the data for coverage of refusal cases and missed children.
The one-day campaign has proved effective as there was no attack on vaccinators. About 32 persons, including policemen, vaccinators, volunteers and lady health workers, have been killed by unknown miscreants in earlier campaigns since Dec 2012.
The SKI programme was introduced by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government in February after the health department informed the PTI leadership that they were short of vaccinators to reach five million target children in the province mainly due to risks associated with the polio campaigns.
Under the SKI, the government vaccinated 1.4 million children in Peshawar, Mardan, Charsadda and Swabi every week. The police department deployed 5,000 personnel to guard vaccinators in each of the rounds and each of the streets where vaccinators worked was covered by two policemen for 10 hours continuously.
The programme took four weeks to get into top gear. It began in 43 UCs and later reached 92. So if transitional, immediate and long-term measures are not taken to cover the refusals and missed children, the population couldn’t benefit from the SKI to a desired level.