PESHAWAR: Vaccination counters are being set up at all agency headquarters hospitals of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas to provide oral polio vaccination certificates to all those traveling abroad from the region to implement the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommendation for vaccinating all Pakistanis boarding international flights.
The authorities insist they’re hopeful that the Taliban will not hamper vaccination of adults for Haj, Umrah and jobs in parts of Fata, where they had banned the children’s vaccination.
“The counters will begin operations in the next few days. Arrangements have been made to fulfil the WHO recommendation by providing OPV to all those flying out of the country,” Fata director (health) Dr Pervez Kamal told Dawn.
He said he hoped that militants wouldn’t hamper the provision of vaccines to adult population as the people visited Saudi Arabia to perform Haj and Umrah.
“Those not getting anti-polio drops will not be able to travel for Haj and Umrah. They will not be allowed to board planes. We have made arrangements to facilitate the tribesmen, who visit Middle East and other countries for jobs,” he said.
Official says unvaccinated people won’t be allowed to board planes
Dr Pervez said the militants, who were opposed to vaccination of children, won’t put up resistance as it was compulsory for them to get vaccinated against polio.
He said the Directorate of Health Services, Fata was in contact with the agency surgeons in all seven tribal agencies as well six Frontier Regions to ensure establishment of counters for vaccination and certification at the respective agency headquarters hospitals and offices of agency surgeons immediately.
“The medical superintendent and agency surgeon will supervise vaccination counters to ensure that they are visible and have displayed banners,” he said.
The Fata director (health) said the medical superintendents and the agency surgeons would also provide specimen signatures to the component authority for verification whenever needed besides that travelers will be administered anti-polio drops followed by issuance of certificate duly signed by the relevant MS and AS.
On May 5, the WHO had recommended travel restrictions under which each Pakistani flying out of country will have to receive two drops of polio vaccine.
Pakistan is among the three endemic countries posing serious threats of re-infection of children in the countries declared polio-free long ago, so all Fata people will have to produce polio certificate upon landing in a foreign country to avoid deportation.
Of the 66 countrywide cases in 2014, North and South Waziristan agencies have reported 44 and five cases respectively.
All these Fata children haven’t been vaccinated since the Taliban banned polio vaccination in June 2012.
The officials said people from Fata would be closely watched at airports than passengers from other part of the country.
Until now, the Taliban’s ban has crippled around 100 children in Waziristan, where militants insisted vaccination campaign was part of the US espionage plan to kill them.
The Taliban’s argument gained currency after Dr Shakil Afridi’s alleged role in fake hepatitis B vaccination campaign came to the fore.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has already established polio counter at the Bacha Khan Airport, Peshawar, where the people traveling abroad receive OPV and vaccination certificates.
Dr Pervez said the data concerning record of the passengers would be maintained and kept confidential and that the record would be shared only after the approval of respective MS and AS wherever required.
He said OPV and vaccination certificate would be provided to the people free of charge.
The Fata director (health) said the directorate had got good stock of OPV to be administered to the people.
He said the vaccination certificate would be valid for one year.
Published in Dawn, May 23rd, 2014