KARACHI: One-year-old Murad is the latest addition to Pakistan's polio count that now stands at 88 reported cases this year, according to official sources.
Murad, son of Nisar Ahmed Khan, was taken to the hospital earlier this month when he was suffering from fever which lasted several days.
The doctor at this small clinic in the Khans' residential area near Gulshan-i-Buner treated the child, but when the fever persisted, the distraught parents took Murad to National Institute of Child Health (NICH), says Town Health Officer for Landhi Dr Siddique.
Once at NICH, the child was treated, and as part of protocol for all children under five, he was tested for the polio virus. When the tests returned positive the Khan family was in disbelief.
Like the other six cases from Sindh -- all from Karachi -- Murad also belongs to a Pakhtun household. His family, which hails from Swat, did not however refuse vaccination, they say. In fact, Murad was administered the polio vaccine thee times since birth: once in March, then again in May and the last time in June. Earlier reports suggested that the child's family had refused vaccination, but the family refutes this allegation.
Despite the triple vaccination, Siddique confirms “the onset of the polio virus in the child started on June 6.”
While H-area, near Gulshan-i-Buner, where Murad lives with his large family, deals with on-going security situation Siddique says, “health workers go in to vaccinate as often as possible.”
There are five other children, besides Murad, under five years of age in the same joint family.
“All of them had been previously administered at least one dose, some were given more,” Siddique confirms. Thus far none of the other children have tested positive for polio.
Pakhtun families, especially those who have migrated from northern areas in the last couple of years are notorious for refusing vaccines due to a number of reasons ranging from religion to traditions to family’s preferences.
“Usually when the women are at home they allow the teams to administer the dose to the children. The problem occurs when the men are also present and they usually refuse to vaccinate the children,” Siddique explains.
But lack of vaccination is not the reason for Murad’s fate. In fact there are at least five other polio cases across Pakistan and two in Sindh (including Murad) that were administered at least one dose but have tested positive for the crippling disease.
Major reasons why polio could occur despite vaccination
Efficacy of the vaccine is lost due to ineffective cold chain management
Due to limited and/or restricted access in certain areas and failure to regularly conduct immunisation campaigns the immunity against the virus in is very low. This mean the virus is circulating in the area and while children are vaccinated their low immunity prevents them from being fully protected.
Malnutrition. If a child is malnourished than the vaccine may not be effective.