PESHAWAR: The surfacing of new polio cases in the province has upset the health department.
According to the officials, the polio virus is spreading in the province, while refusals against oral vaccination continue to thwart the large-scale vaccination efforts by the government in collaboration with the UN agencies.
They told Dawn on Saturday that the government was reviving the plan to deal with the children refusing vaccination or being missed in the anti-polio campaign besides strengthening the quality of campaigns and monitoring.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has reported three of the nationwide five cases in 2016.
One reported in Peshawar is from a family, which has refused vaccination of its members many times in the past.
Akhunabad area, where the child has tested positive for polio, is the stronghold of a religious group, which doesn’t approve of oral polio vaccine.
The official said the family’s vaccination refusal led to the crippling of its small member.
According to them, another polio case reported in Nowshera district is an Afghan refugee, who has no record of vaccination amid claims by parents that polio drops were administered to the child in the past.
The health officials in Nowshera said there were eight children in the house but seven of them were immunised.
Officials say virus is spreading, vaccination refusals continue
The vaccination record shows the parents declined the injectable vaccination of one child conducted in June and oral polio vaccination conducted in September. In Oct 2015, the child was shown as ‘not available’.
The third child who tested positive for the virus was from Hangu district. He was reported to have received multiple OPV doses.
Last year, polio cases were reported though the boys were vaccinated.
The officials said the health department on the advice of the relevant federal authorities was seriously thinking to handle the growing vaccination refusals as 15,000 children, who didn’t get OPV due to parents’ opposition, coupled with around 100,000 those who missed vaccination, risked around 5.4 million children already vaccinated.
They said the other major area which the health department was focusing on was to halt the geographical spread of the virus.
In 2015, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had 17 polio cases with 12 being reported in Peshawar, which was declared the polio virus reservoir by the World Health Organisation.
The officials said polio cases coming the central and southern districts had turned out to be a serious challenge.
They said the incidence of polio cases had reduced last year due to the quality immunisation and that to sustain the success, a new strategy was adopted to strengthen vaccination campaigns in the areas where cases had been coming from during the past few years.
The officials said the number of women vaccinators was being increased to cover silent vaccination refusals as many parents pretended that their children weren’t available when vaccinator visited their houses.
They said women vaccinators could go inside houses and that their presence had given good results in the previous drives.
The officials said the province had deployed 17,000 teams during every anti-polio campaign with 60 per cent of them being women, but more women were required to cover children, who couldn’t get vaccination by men on their doorstep.
They said the health department had decided to revise their micro-plans against polio, evaluate working conditions of vaccinators and reduce workload wherever needed.
The officials said the overall vaccination campaign was satisfactory but the focus on high-risk union council was part of the new mechanism to stop circulation of virus.
They said a strong monitoring system had been recommended to ensure that quality reporting was done and unvaccinated children were identified.
Published in Dawn, February 28th, 2016