Capital’s polio vaccination drive suffers after Peshawar incident

Updated April 24, 2019

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Refusal rate goes up in all mouzas and union councils, says official. ─ AP/File
Refusal rate goes up in all mouzas and union councils, says official. ─ AP/File

ISLAMABAD: Parents in the capital’s rural and urban areas refused to vaccinate their children against polio on Tuesday, the first day of a polio vaccination campaign, after the incident in Peshawar a day prior.

Hundreds of children were rushed to hospitals in Peshawar complaining of abdominal pain and nausea allegedly after being vaccinated on Monday. Most were released, and doctors at Lady Reading Hospital – which received 300 or so children – said whatever was impacting the children appeared to be psychological.

Nevertheless, rumours circulated on social media about children falling ill and even dying after being vaccinated in Peshawar.

Refusal rate goes up in all mouzas and union councils, says official

In Islamabad, polio workers and teams faced difficulties on the first day of the vaccination campaign, officials from the capital administration said.

Around half of the parents and schools in rural areas refused to vaccinate their children while 35 to 40pc of people in urban areas refused as well.

A meeting was held at the deputy commissioner’s office to discuss the matter. It was decided that parents and school administrations would be persuaded first, and legal action, including the filing of cases, would be considered afterwards if polio teams were not allowed to administer vaccines.

The deputy commissioner told Dawn that the situation was worse in rural areas where the refusal rate had risen from 10 people to 60 people in all mouzas and union councils.

“We have been conducting polio campaigns effectively and successfully for the last couple of months,” he said, adding the capital’s environment had been polio free for the last four months and tests on samples had returned negative.

He appealed to parents and schools not to take false rumours against polio vaccination seriously, saying these were being spread deliberately and were part of a conspiracy.

“The polio vaccine is safe and tested at the National Institute of Health,” he said, adding: “Being a deputy commissioner I also had my children administered the polio vaccine today.”

He said the poliovirus was eradicated from the capital’s environment through heroic efforts, and it would be an irreparable loss if the challenge of parent and school refusals was not covered in order to administer vaccines to children during the ongoing campaign.

He said assistance had been sought from police stations to initiate legal action if anyone intercepts polio teams, misbehaves with them or threatens them. All magistrates and assistant commissioners as well as senior officials will visit mouzas and union councils in their jurisdictions starting today (Wednesday) to persuade parents and schools until the campaign concludes.

Union council monitoring officers and lady health workers will also participate in door-to-door campaigns, he said.

Strict action will be taken against those who refused to get their children vaccination, he said, which could include the registration of cases.

Published in Dawn, April 24th, 2019