Two more polio cases confirmed taking year’s total to 15

Updated May 11, 2019

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Govt says polio programme achieved a major success in removing anti-polio content from social media. — AFP/File
Govt says polio programme achieved a major success in removing anti-polio content from social media. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: While the polio programme achieved a major success in removing the anti-polio content from social media, two more polio cases from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were on Friday confirmed after which the tally for the current year reached 15.

Immunisation campaigns have suffered due anti-vaxxers who launched a campaign on social media across the globe claiming the vaccines were causing a number of diseases and should not be administered to children.

In Pakistan, a malicious campaign was also started that not only declared vaccines Haram but also said it made children impotent.

Govt says polio programme achieved a major success in removing anti-polio content from social media

To tackle the situation, Prime Minister’s Focal Person on Polio Babar Bin Atta a few months ago approached Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) Chairman Amir Azeem Bajwa and requested him to play his role in removing the anti-polio content from the social media.

According to an official correspondence, the PTA was proactively identifying and reporting anti-vaccination content on different social media platforms. So far 174 links have been blocked out of which Facebook removed 130, Twitter 14 and YouTube blocked 30 links.

According to an official statement issued by the National Polio Programme on Friday, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter have started removing the anti-vaccination contents. They have also issued warnings to the users.

These contents were spreading misunderstanding about the anti-polio campaigns besides discouraging the citizens from vaccinating against the virus.

Mr Atta said: “Facebook’s global regulatory and content management teams have assured Pakistan of its cooperation in its fight against polio during a video conference.”

He added: “Facebook has started removing propaganda material, including pages, as per their rules and policy. Pakistan appreciates Facebook’s support in eradication of polio in the country.”

The statement said the polio programme would continue working closely with Facebook International to identify and recommend action against the users who spread hateful propaganda material.

The press release said parental refusals due to misconception available on social media especially on Facebook regarding the polio vaccine was emerging as the major obstacle in achieving the goal of eradicating the crippling disease in the country.

Pakistan has made great achievements in eradicating polio but propaganda regarding the vaccine’s safety has caused the increase in the number of refusal cases by parents whose children are reported as missing during the immunisation campaigns.

It said Pakistan Polio Eradication Programme was in close contact with Facebook policymakers and its legal team for the removal of malicious contents.

“This content stands to incite harm and violence against polio workers, and may further deteriorate the programme’s coverage of vulnerable children and their subsequent immunity against the poliovirus.”

The polio virology laboratory at the National Institute of Health (NIH) on Friday confirmed two more polio cases from Bannu, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

An official of the lab, who was not authorised to speak on record, told Dawn that the first child infected with the poliovirus was a six-month-old girl.

“Her sample was collected on April 18 and as the incubation period of the virus is up to three weeks so it has been confirmed that the child was paralysed by poliovirus,” he said.

“The second child is eight months old boy and his sample was collected on April 26,” he said.

So far in the current year, 15 polio cases have been reported. Last year 12 cases were reported while in 2017 the number of polio cases was only eight.

During the current year, six cases have been reported from KP, four from tribal districts of KP, three from Punjab and two from Sindh.

Currently, Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only two countries where polio has not been eliminated.

Published in Dawn, May 11th, 2019