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Polio vaccine.—AFP/File
Polio vaccine.—AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: It is official. The polio vaccine being used to fight the crippling disease in our Islamic state is Halal.

A laboratory controlled by the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) has tested the vaccine and certified that, according to information gathered by Dawn from official sources and documents.

Officials of the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) said polio vaccines were registered in the country only after the expert committee on biological drugs and the Drug Registration Board of DRAP “thoroughly evaluated” them.

Know more: Arrangements made to launch new polio vaccine from July

Yet, many parents refuse the vaccination to their children under the notion that it is Haram.

Anti-polio campaign documents say the notion has been persisting since 2004 when obscurantist elements in the society spread the concoction that certain human hormones were deliberately added to the oral polio vaccine (OPV) to make children sterile.

Sadly, many polio workers paid with their lives or limbs for daring to carry on the battle against the disease.

But worse was the reversal that the battle against polio suffered as simple folks refused the vaccine, more out of fear of the obscurantist elements and the outlawed Taliban than the logic of their concocted claims.

This disturbing trend gained great strength, particularly in the tribal areas, after the revelations that it was a false hepatitis vaccine programme conducted by Pakistani physician Shakil Afridi in the neighbourhood of Osama bin Laden’s hideout in Abbottabad that helped the American CIA to hunt down and kill the al Qaeda leader in May 2011.

In June 2012, the Taliban banned polio vaccination in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata). And the vaccine became ‘Haram’ and unwanted even for the people not sympathetic to the Taliban.

Since then, new polio cases have risen to record 300, earning Pakistan the notoriety of being “the hub of polio virus”.

Misconception of ‘Haram’ played havoc with anti-polio programme and took lives of many polio workers

Officials said in a bid to erase the misconceived ‘Haram’ tag, three vaccine lots - MONO OPV1 Batch No. 132719 manufactured by Novartis, Italy; Polio Sabin Batch No. AOP4A393AA and Batch No. AOPVB996BA, both manufactured by GSK, Belgium, were sent to National Control Laboratory for Biologicals (NCLB) in Islamabad for testing.

Director NCLB Abdul Samad Khan certified that the samples were tested using methods that detected the human hormones in minute quantities. OPV dose is two drops and in this quantity none of the six possible hormones detected - not even at concentration as low as 0.0005mg.

The NCLB report showed that the samples passed the viral activity and sterility tests with no detectable level of human hormones.

Related documents contained answers to the frequently asked questions. They say the question generally asked is if the OPV contained hormones estrogen and progesterone that may cause infertility. None of the two hormones was detected.

Another question asked is that OPV is produced in monkey kidney cells and can become the cause of different diseases. The answer given is that the World Health Organisation (WHO) thoroughly discussed the parameters for the production of polio vaccine and found no virus in the vaccine which could cause a disease.

Still another question usually asked is that why OPV is not produced in Pakistan? The answer is that polio vaccine was manufactured in the country from 1980 to 2003 from imported concentrate using old formulation of six drops per dose.

That vaccine was difficult to administer and often spilled outside the mouth of a child. The present vaccine is two drops per dose, is more stable and easy to administer.

Though polio vaccine can be manufactured locally as before, but in the near future OPV will be replaced with an injectable one. So it is preferable to import the vaccine.

At present, only Indonesia, Belgium, India, Italy and France manufacture OPV.

Pakistan purchases the vaccine from manufacturers prequalified by the WHO, which also inspects the manufacturing and testing laboratories.

Though there is no need to test the quality of the vaccine, it can be, and occasionally is, tested locally for safety, say the documents.

Medical specialist and vice chancellor of the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) Dr Javed Akram agreed that there was no need to do lab test because the vaccine was made by genetic engineering in which DNA of virus was taken and multiplied.

“Genetic engineering has nothing to do with Halal and Haram,” he said, hoping that the sceptics would put more confidence in the vaccine after the report and start vaccinating their children.

National Manager Expanded Programme on Immunisation Rana Safdar hoped that the report would satisfy the religious elements who had been objecting to the polio vaccination.

“We conducted a campaign in collaboration with the International Islamic University to convince religious objectors that polio vaccine is Halal. Still now and then face criticism that vaccine is manufactured out of the country and WHO is also not a Pakistani organisation,” he said.

“We have always been clear about the potency, efficacy and safety of the vaccine and now that the lab tests have declared the same, the religious stigma should go away,” he said.

Published in Dawn January 14th , 2015

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Comments (35) Closed

Dystopia Jan 14, 2015 06:58am

Wow. Is this actually news? Ignorance is a bliss and those who choose not to vaccinate their children will stick by their ignorance. They hardly care for what science has to say.

NN Jan 14, 2015 07:22am

Why can't they get scientific data and explain? Estrogen and progesterone are anti fertility hormones ..... Since when? Can't they explain it needs way to higher dose of these than two dope in polio vaccine to cause feminine changes in males

Hussain Jan 14, 2015 07:32am

If logic and rationality actually worked on our nation, this problem wouldn't have even arisen. As long as we remain in the clutches of obscurantist ulema, you can analyze polio drops to death but nothing will change.

First of all there are no human hormones in the vaccine, but even if there were, I fail to fathom how a few micrograms of estrogen or progesterone will render a child sterile (and I am an endocrinologist). But then again, ours is a nation which would believe anything, including car engines that run on water.

Bachabassi Jan 14, 2015 08:30am

ha..ha....haaaaa... it is very saaaad

TooTrue Jan 14, 2015 08:37am

What can you say or do about the inhabitants of this unfortunate country.

Sushant Patel Jan 14, 2015 09:01am

Well done. Dr. Moulvi.

shaukat Jan 14, 2015 09:01am

Shame on us that we can't manufacture vaccines but we can build atomic weapons.

hitesh Jan 14, 2015 09:04am

todays children of pakistan are tomorrows army man or militant in both the situations if they take polio vaccine or not what is the difference. their fate may be same

Ilyas Jan 14, 2015 09:13am

So unfortunate that this nation is arguing whether or not to administer polio drops. We need to launch a campaign against polio similar to Zarb e ezb to eliminate the disease. Our religious people have a very important role to play. Juma sermon must cover the subject in local dialect and clearly convey the official, scientific point of view on polio, its vaccine and consequences of non-administration both on the child and nation as a whole.

DBIndian Jan 14, 2015 09:16am

LOL, I can't stop laughing; LOL LOL LOL :-)

SK Masood Jan 14, 2015 09:16am

Oral polio vaccines were banned in US and many countries many years ago - why r they being used at all as there r medical problems with it? Media has to play an important role in disseminating correct knowledge.

Sahil Jan 14, 2015 09:20am

Does Polio virus care whether it is halal or not? Its time muslims got enlightened about science and not the book...

Truth will Always Prevail Jan 14, 2015 09:22am

Ignorance and illiteracy is your biggest enemy. Educate your self

BRR Jan 14, 2015 09:33am

Totally illogical to conduct such tests - only stupid people conduct such meaningless tests.

vijaykumar Jan 14, 2015 09:44am

Reading the headlines, I thought this was a satire.

LK Jan 14, 2015 09:52am

I cant believe Pakistan is seriously discussing this. The rest of the world is comfortable using polio drops and have virtually eliminated the disease. And Pakistan is still debating all these strange issues....

SACHIN AMBHORE Jan 14, 2015 10:02am

@SK Masood not banned.but stopped using bcos those countries were polio free.there is an injectable option available.but oral is easy way.

Ahmad Jan 14, 2015 10:04am

People should boycott all mullah who have spoken against taking polio vaccination for the sake of their children.

Umar Jan 14, 2015 10:09am

This news is not for those who are already vaccinated!!! its for those who kill polio workers! and if our media is trying to spread something good, please let it.... what we need is awareness.

Allaisa Jan 14, 2015 10:20am

@SK Masood It is not banned but its use was discontinued. But in a poor country like Pakistan oral vaccine is much easier to use. If India could use it and eradicate polio in that country I do not see why Pakistan can not do the same.

bro Jan 14, 2015 10:47am

So its true that OPV is produced in monkey kidney cells. Thanks.

xyz Jan 14, 2015 10:48am

Looks like people of Pakistan are in the primitive age. How can fundamentalist dictate what is good or bad for the people. What do they understand of science and medicine. Instead of government taking action, people must revolt against such fundamentalist and decide for themselves what is good or bad. Had they done so they could have saved the 3000 odd children affiliating from polio. It time people express their view and join the mainstream of the world.

Nitin Gulhane Jan 14, 2015 11:04am

This is as crazy as it can get. What next? Labelling all medicines as 'halal'??? And Doctor to say some words before each injection??

Sayyar Khan Jan 14, 2015 11:12am

Will there be any end to stupidity in Pakistan. This is the funniest news of all. Halal Polio Vaccine. This is the only country where all Halalies live. Long live Halal Pakistan or Halalistan.

DBIndian Jan 14, 2015 11:12am

@Nitin Gulhane "This is as crazy as it can get. What next? Labelling all medicines as 'halal'??? And Doctor to say some words before each injection??"

Actually, there is a good business opportunity in Pakistan to open "Halal Medical Store", "Halal Hospitals", "Halal Clinics", "Halal Healthcare Education" etc etc. LOL :)

think_then_speak Jan 14, 2015 11:31am

The certification is a good sign, yet the major obstacle is to convince those who oppose vaccination. What logic they accept, what evidence would convince them: it remains the major problem.

SK Jan 14, 2015 11:45am

@hitesh, I think your comment is harsh and does not suit especially for children. If I'm you, I would apologize. FYI, I'm an Indian and Hindu by birth and atheist by practice, in case if you think I'm a Pakistani and a Muslim etc.

Charu Jan 14, 2015 12:36pm

@DBIndian : There is nothing"lol" about polio.. We may not be best buddies with Pakistan but what polio does is something I wouldn't wish even for an enemy.

Your comment Is rude and no better than the illogical mindset which is preventing polio eradication.

Sumit Chaudhary Jan 14, 2015 12:38pm

@shaukat atomic weapon..!!! either you or Wikipedia isn't factually correct. Wikipedia says "Pakistan has NONE of its atomic weapon indigenously built by Pakistan". missiles that Pakistan posses are either completely built by China or in Partnership with it. Here are the lists of countries developing "Atomic weapons and Missiles" indigenously- US, Russia, France, UK, China, India, Japan, Israel. These are not my data but available online. May have a look. Though Pakistan has good missile stocks but not built indigenously.

Charu Jan 14, 2015 12:41pm

@DBIndian : As I fellow indian I urge you to stop such comments which are demeaning to very basis of our society - respect for all religious beliefs. Am sure such insensitive comments will not be welcome even in India let alone Pakistan

farhad Jan 14, 2015 12:42pm

funny ... our media/ politicians and Army/ Judiciary are all acting like puppets at the hands of Terrorists. they make all these dignified institutes run here and there for a needle in hay and all of them oblige in the same fashion.

now, this medical doctrine, as one fails to understand why we had to believe every time for whatever Talibans say ? is their clout much stronger or they are more educated, well organized and medical champions .... here come education importance my friends......... had this PMLN/ PPP / ARMY emphasized on education we could staved off current situation.

unfortunately, until now we have not learned and yet we are adamant in establishing more courts, doing conferences, keeping happy our master from washington to delhi to afghanistan and yet we expect we will win this war. hats off to collective wisdom of all who are sitting in and out of parliament.

Charu Jan 14, 2015 12:44pm

@hitesh : What a crappy thing to say. Children are children and may God, Ishwar, Allah keep them safe.

shafeeq Jan 14, 2015 01:11pm

Ignorance and illiteracy is your biggest enemy. Educate your self

Range Rover Jan 14, 2015 02:18pm

Do our Mullahs believe these labs? I guess no!

Akbaruddin Jan 14, 2015 03:06pm

What!!!! It is like analyzing sunlight and declaring it is day!