KARACHI: A six-month-old child on Thursday became the third victim of polio in Sindh — second in Karachi — this year as the authorities entrusted with the task to eradicate the crippling disease blamed the increasing refusals and misleading propaganda for the failure to eradicate the disease, which has put Pakistan’s children again in danger of lifelong disability.
An official in the Sindh health ministry said they had received reports from the National Institute of Health, Islamabad, which confirmed the child was another victim of the crippling disease.
The officials said the family of the six-month-old male child had been refusing to vaccinate him against polio in many previous anti-polio campaigns.
“He was a victim of chronic refusal offered by his family to the polio teams in Union Council-12 in Gulshan-i-Iqbal, where they reside,” said an official of the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) for polio in Sindh.
Family’s refusal to vaccinate child blamed for the onset of the virus
He said refusals and disinformation against vaccination were the factors that led to another polio case in the country.
“Fake propaganda against vaccination leads to misconception, and it is necessary for parents that they must not fall prey to such disinformation,” said the official.
The officials said by refusing to vaccinate their children against polio, families were putting their children in danger of contracting polio as well as the children of other people.
The EOC officials referred to the child’s father, grandmother and uncle, who told them that the boy developed low-grade fever on April 28.
“He [father] carried the child for consultation with doctors at a private hospital in Gulberg. Fever was followed by weakness of both lower limbs a day later.”
After preliminary investigations, stool samples of the child were sent to Islamabad that now confirmed polio infection in him.
Sindh has now three polio cases so far this year — two from Karachi and another from Larkana. The number of polio cases across the country is 17.
Punjab has reported three cases, all from Lahore; six cases are reported from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and another five from its tribal districts.
“This is why,” said a senior official in the EOC Sindh, “we have repeatedly been raising awareness among people requesting them to vaccinate their children with drops of polio vaccine every time they are offered. Please do not refuse and put the future of your children in danger,” said the EOC coordinator.
He requested the media to spread awareness that repeated vaccination was necessary for the health of children, and to help the authorities in discouraging disinformation.
“We are all stakeholders in eradicating polio from Pakistan and we must work together to eradicate poliovirus from our environment.”
The officials said recent incidents in Peshawar in which medical facilities involved in anti-polio campaign had been attacked by people after baseless rumours and similar propaganda elsewhere had had a negative impact everywhere.
“People are putting their own children in danger by believing in such rumours. This case of a young child is another sad reminder for all of us to know this is what happens when you don’t vaccinate,” said an official.
The officials said environment samples had been positive showing that polio’s dangers were still there. But when campaigns against the virus took a hit because of disinformation and propaganda, the task to end the disease turned even more difficult.
“Polio will return if children are not vaccinated repeatedly,” the official warned.
Published in Dawn, May 17th, 2019