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'Arrest warrants against the parents wasn’t a policy of the government but it has proved a blessing in disguise.'—INP/File
'Arrest warrants against the parents wasn’t a policy of the government but it has proved a blessing in disguise.'—INP/File

PESHAWAR: The provincial health department has reduced the cases of refusal against oral polio vaccine by issuing warrants for arrest of 1,200 parents and guardians, who defied vaccination of their children against the crippling childhood disease during the first round of Sehat Ka Ittehad (Alliance for Health) last week.

About 512 people, including 471 in Peshawar and 41 in Nowshera, were arrested by the respective district administrations for their refusal to vaccinate their children. They were freed when they submitted an undertaking that they would not oppose immunisation. It has been seen first time that the vaccination programme is backed by the administration at the highest level.

Know more: KP police arrest 471 parents for refusing polio vaccine

Sources said that issuance of arrest warrants against the parents wasn’t a policy of the government. There is no law to make vaccination lawfully binding on the parents but it has proved a blessing in disguise for the children, who were not vaccinated during the past two to four years and risked the ailment.

Only 23,000 refusal cases were recorded in February against the 47,000 cases in January owing to full administrative support in all districts where deputy commissioners supervised the vaccination. If same tempo of SKI programme was maintained in the next rounds, refusal cases could be covered.


Administration backs anti-polio programme at highest level


Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has been facing an uphill task of vaccinating all children because about 40,000 to 45,000 children remained unvaccinated in the campaign wherein five million children were vaccinated. The chief secretary has issued directives to the commissioners in all divisions to spearhead the immunisation drive in their areas and furnish reports on monthly basis.

People in the province associated with the polio eradication campaigns said that those parents, who refused vaccination, not only put their own children at risk but also posed threat to the immunised ones. Not only administrative but a complete political support at the union council level is proving instrumental in convincing the parents on vaccination.

Committees at union council level comprising representative of district administrative, health officials and local elders, visited houses of chronically refusing parents to convince them on vaccination.

The local ulema also accompanied the committee members to the house of refusing families to convince them on vaccination of their children in the light of Islam. Hundreds of anti-polio campaigns carried out in the province since 1994 when global polio eradication programme got underway but the parents refused at their will and the vaccinators had no power to force them on immunisation.

The health department as well as donor organisations are concerned about refusal cases and want them to be covered to cope with the disease due to which the people face travel restrictions.

The Bill Melinda Gates Foundation, a government’s partner in polio eradication, recently called PTI chairman Imran Khan for his government initiative to ensure quality vaccination and hoped that he believed it was the best way to have the disease eradicated.

During the three-day vaccination campaign, starting from March 16, the provincial government has planned to arrest people for refusing vaccination.

Published in Dawn, March 6th, 2015

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