PESHAWAR: A committee of senior health officials formed by government to investigate the polio scare on Monday last has recommended legal proceedings against the union council members, owners of private schools and individuals involved in the propaganda against the vaccine.
The committee also suggested adopting a comprehensive strategy to woo the parents to vaccinate their children to eradicate the vaccine-preventable childhood ailment.
It said that use of loudspeakers in mosques should be regulated and standard operating procedures for prayer leaders should be put in place to prevent propaganda against the anti-polio vaccine.
Report suggests regulating use of loudspeakers in mosques
The committee said that those, who stood up on the side of polio workers and showed bravery in front of angry mob, should be given certificates of appreciation.
The heroism of Burhan Khan, the principal of Government Primary School Number.1 Mashokhel, who sheltered the workers of the basic health unit to protect them from the enraged protesters, should be acknowledged by the government.
The report sent to the chief secretary by health department also pointed out that how sirens played by ambulances of relief organisations and news ran on media created chaos. It said that government’s version should be sought prior to filing medical stories in emergency situations for the sake of precision.
The committee, headed by Additional Health Secretary Ahmed Zeb, was tasked by the government on April 22 to look into the matter. It recommended lodging of cases with FIA against the social media managers for spreading rumours and damaging a national cause.
Dr Arshad Ahmad Khan, Dr Shehzad Faisal and Dr Mohammad Saleem Khan were members of the committee. The panel found that 40,000 children were hospitalised due to alleged OPV’s reaction but all were sent home the same day.
Social media was the major tool used for propaganda against vaccination so it needed to be regulated through relevant laws to put brakes on such incidents in future, said the report.
Nine different batches, which besides Peshawar were also used in four other districts, were procured under the prescribed law for vaccination. In Peshawar, properly cold chained 91,840 vials were being used in the campaign.
The report also said that nazims including Nadim, Amjad, Amjadullah, Lal Said, Jamshed and Malik Aslam and town council member Ikram Khan besides Qari Shakir Zaman and others spearheaded the chaos to block polio vaccination, an initiative of national importance.
The report sought strict action against Tehkal Payan nazim Gohar Zaman, saying he threatened and abused polio workers and owners of private schools besides instigating people to damage properties and thrash staffers.
It said that action should be taken against Iqra Rozatul Atfaal, Iqra School, Hall Marks School, Cambridge School, Muslim Standard School, Oxford School, Pine Breeze School, Crescent School City Home and Darul Kalam Model School.
The report, finalised within 48 hours, said that collective and professional response to the situation, which was not medical emergency, was timely and effective. It said that the propaganda was later exposed and countered effectively. However, it said that measures should be taken to avoid its replay.
Based on evidence, facts, circumstances, statements and interviews of relevant staff, the report opined strongly that it was not a medical emergency rather it was a preplanned conspiracy against eradication of polio, which along with Afghanistan and Nigeria was endemic in Pakistan.
It said that it seemed that some opportunistic elements tried to sabotage the national cause of polio eradication.
Published in Dawn, April 26th, 2019