Anomaly detected in polio vaccination data

Updated 31 Dec 2018

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Huge gap has been observed between claims of district administrations about percentage of polio vaccinations and children found with finger marks during third party audit. — File photo
Huge gap has been observed between claims of district administrations about percentage of polio vaccinations and children found with finger marks during third party audit. — File photo

ISLAMABAD: This year a huge gap has been observed between claims of the district administrations about percentage of polio vaccinations and children found with finger marks during third party audit across the country.

A written reply of Minister for National Health Services Aamer Mehmood Kiani, tabled in the National Assembly, shows that there was up to 10 per cent difference between the data of vaccinated children provided to the polio programme and the audit in which marked fingers were checked.

The question was asked by MNA Seemi Bokhari of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf. She had asked if the relevant authority had conducted a study to find out exact percentage of coverage during polio campaigns and if steps were being taken to enhance the coverage rate.

The written reply shows that during a country-wide polio campaign in January, as many as 98pc children were vaccinated, according to the polio eradication programme’s data, but during the audit, it was revealed that only 88pc children were vaccinated. Similarly in February, 98pc children were shown vaccinated, but the audit came up with 89pc results.

Official says reports reveal wastage of vaccines and fake vaccination

A little better result was observed during sub-national campaigns in March, May and August. However, during nation-wide campaigns in September and November, 97pc and 98pc vaccination coverages, respectively, were claimed by the polio teams, but during the audit, 93pc children were found with finger marks during both campaigns.

An official of the polio programme, requesting not to be named, said that while vaccinating a child a finger was marked with an ink which could not be removed for at least one week.

“During the independent survey, which is also called post-campaign monitoring (PCM), fingers of every third or fourth child are checked to see if he was vaccinated. However, whenever the difference is observed during the survey, polio teams claim that the quality of ink was not good due to which it would have removed,” he said.

“The issue was raised during a recent meeting chaired by Prime Minister’s focal person for polio eradication Babar Bin Atta. He said that he had reports that polio teams were involved in wasting the vaccine and marking fingers of children without vaccinating them. So the actual difference can be much more because of fake vaccination,” the official said.

“Mr Atta said that as most of the district administrations claim that they achieve 98pc target, the lot quality assurance samples (LQAS) would be considered to declare the campaigns successful. Moreover, he asked if the 98pc target has been achieved, why the virus of the crippling disease was found in sewage of seven major cities,” the official said.

During the LQAS, which is held after the PCM, independent teams check finger marking, ask about the performance of polio teams from traders in markets and from prayer leader of the area’s mosque. They also visit schools and interview mothers to ensure that the team had visited all places assigned to it.

Moreover, the last IMB report stressed that the major issue, which needed to be focused, was detection of virus of the crippling disease from the environmental samples (sewage water) rather than decreasing number of polio cases.

The IMB works on behalf of the international donor agencies and issues reports on performance of the countries after every six months. In November 2012, the IMB recommended imposition of travel restrictions on Pakistani nationals and finally these recommendations were implemented on May 5, 2014. Because of restrictions it has been declared mandatory for every person in Pakistan to get vaccinated before travelling abroad.

Published in Dawn, December 31st, 2018