ISLAMABAD: Amid propaganda against polio vaccine and frequent refusals by parents to inoculate their children against the virus, five more polio cases in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were confirmed on Tuesday.
When contacted, Prime Minister’s Focal Person on Polio Eradication Babar Bin Atta said: “It has been learnt that none of them was vaccinated during polio campaigns and routine immunisation. Unfortunately, since the incident of Peshawar [in April], we have been facing severe resistance from parents. They have kept markers at their houses and manage to avoid vaccination by marking the fingers of their children on the very first day of polio campaign.”
With the latest addition, the number of polio cases climbed to 53 this year, far more than the last year figure of 12. In a sharp contrast, only eight cases were confirmed in 2017.
The five new victims, including two girls, belonged to Bannu, North Waziristan and Charsadda, with the youngest of them only 22 months old.
An official of Polio Virology Laboratory at the National Institute of Health (NIH), requesting anonymity, said three cases were reported from Bannu and one each from North Waziristan and Charsadda.
Parents’ refusal to vaccinate their children cited as reason for diagnosis
“During investigations it emerged that not a single child was vaccinated during polio and routine immunisation campaigns, as their parents apparently did not allow the children to be vaccinated,” he said. Earlier during a nationwide polio campaign in April, students of a school in Mashokhel were rushed to the Hayatabad Medical Complex, Peshawar, with complaints about drug reaction. However, initial probe indicated that a drama had been staged to spread propaganda against polio drives and all the children were safe. While some of the culprits were arrested and legal action was taken against them, resistance to polio vaccination has increased since then.
Among the latest victims of the crippling disease, a 22-month-old boy was detected with the virus in Charsadda and a two-year-old boy was found infected in North Waziristan. Three polio cases were reported from Bannu. The victims included two girls, aged seven and 30 months old, and a 36-month-old boy.
Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by poliovirus mainly affecting children under the age of five. It invades the nervous system, and can cause paralysis or even death. While there is no cure for polio, vaccination is the most effective way to protect children from this crippling disease.
Each time a child under the age of five is vaccinated, their protection against the virus increases. Repeated immunisations have protected millions of children from polio, allowing almost all countries to become polio free. Currently, polio cases are reported from two countries — Pakistan and Afghanistan — due to which the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) has recommended that every person, who intends to travel abroad, has to be vaccinated at the start of their journey.
The IMB, which works on behalf of international donor agencies, issues reports regarding the performance of the countries after every six months.
In November 2012, the IMB had recommended travel restrictions on Pakistan and the recommendations were implemented on May 5, 2014.
Published in Dawn, August 7th, 2019