25pc increase in refusals recorded during anti-polio drive in Islamabad

Published December 17, 2018
Refusals are attributed to social media rumours about death of baby due to polio vaccine. — File photo
Refusals are attributed to social media rumours about death of baby due to polio vaccine. — File photo

ISLAMABAD: After a campaign launched against polio vaccinations on social media, a 25pc increase in refusals was recorded during the recent polio campaign in the federal capital, which started Dec 10.

A two-month old girl was vaccinated on Nov 30 in Tehsil Ghazi. She fell sick and died in Haripur on Dec 2. The incident was reported in the media and it was alleged that she died due to the polio vaccine.

The story was shared widely on social media after which the number of refusals increased in the federal capital.

Refusals are attributed to social media rumours about death of baby due to polio vaccine

A report of an inquiry into the matter says the girl’s death had nothing to do with polio vaccination and that she died of pneumonia.

Take a look: Polio-free Pakistan?

“Most of the refusals were from educated people who are active on social media. During the last polio campaign, we had 69 refusals from across the city and this time we have just as many in the Defence Housing Authority alone. Parents refused to vaccinate their children and misbehaved with polio teams,” focal person for polio in Islamabad, Dr Asif Rahim told Dawn.

Explore: Polio vaccine – what you need to know

A video recording of one such incident, available with Dawn, shows a man misbehaving with a polio team and saying parents should be able to decide if they want to vaccinate their children.

“You have visited my house five times. Now stop coming here or I will call the guards. I have seen news of a child dying because of a polio vaccine. I will not allow my children to be vaccinated, you can do whatever you want,” he says in the clip.

An Islamabad Capital Territory official said most people lie and say they have already vaccinated their children in a hospital and that they are unable to produce a certificate or card when asked.

“We have been facing refusals in Bahria Town and Kural urban societies where it has become very difficult to vaccinate children. The percentage of refusal coverage is still lower than in previous campaigns despite the presence of additional deputy commissioners and assistant commissioners,” he said.

“The media should cover such issues with responsibility because such news can increase the number of refusals in the coming polio campaign in January,” he said.

On the other hand, a report of an inquiry initiated by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government into the death of the two-month old baby girl says the polio vaccine had nothing to do with her death.

The report of the fact finding committee, available with Dawn, says she died of pneumonia and that her four-year-old brother and other children in the vicinity were also vaccinated and that they are all well and healthy.

The report recommends regulatory measures for the publication of news on sensitive issues such as polio in order to avoid chaos among the public.

It says the matter should be thoroughly inquired before publication of such news because polio eradication is a national cause and such activities can damage the campaign.

Published in Dawn, December 17th, 2018

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