ISLAMABAD: The polio programme has directed vaccination teams to focus more on interpersonal relations in order to negate the misconception that eradicating polio is a ‘foreign agenda’.
In addition, a questionnaire polio vaccination officials must fill out at every house they visit has been simplified so it can be filled in one minute.
“In the past, teams would take 10 minutes to fill the questionnaire. Although the questionnaire will not be filled in just one minute, the teams have been directed to spend 10 minutes at each house and build relationships with the families, ask about their issues and discuss household matters.
“This strategy will be used in the upcoming polio campaign, which will be held in the last week of June, and hopefully we will get better results,” Prime Minister’s Focal Person on Polio Babar Bin Atta told Dawn.
He added that many people believe that eradicating polio is part of a foreign agenda, leading them to resist the vaccinations.
Officials asked to win families’ trust to negate perception that polio eradication is a ‘foreign agenda’
“Polio team members used to carry registered and they had around 30 questions to ask, such as how many women in the house were married and if any of them were pregnant. If children are sleeping and when they will wake up. There were also supplementary questions, such as if parents said that the child was sick they used to ask what he or she ate last night, etc. However, I decided to change that practice,” he said.
He added that the new form had included a question about the number of married couples in the house. “I have deleted that question and now the polio team will only ask about the number of children below the age of five,” he said.
He said polio vaccination team members will try to befriend the residents of houses they visit so they can win their trust and convince them that the polio issue affects the country and that there is no foreign agenda behind it.
Mr Atta said the polio team will have a one-leaf form that will fit the data of 135 houses.
“The new form will be used in the upcoming polio campaign, and we hope that now there will be better results from the polio campaigns and the number of refusals will decrease,” he said.
There have been 21 cases of polio reported so far this year, compared to 12 in 2018 and eight in 2017. Nine were reported from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, six from KP’s tribal districts and three each from Sindh and Punjab.
The international community is also pushing Pakistan to eradicate the poliovirus, cases of which are now only reported from Afghanistan and Pakistan. As long as it is not eradicated in both countries, there will be fears that the virus can return at any time.
The Independent Monitoring Board on Polio, which works on behalf of international donor agencies and issues reports on the performance of the countries every six months.
In November 2012, it had recommended travel restrictions on Pakistan, which were implemented on May 5, 2014, and made it mandatory for everyone intending to travel out of Pakistan to be vaccinated for polio.
Published in Dawn, June 4th, 2019