PESHAWAR: Facing tremendous pressure over the outbreak of polio in Bannu district and adjacent Lakki Marwat district, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is making preparations for the effective vaccination of over 95 per cent of targeted children during the upcoming campaign slated to begin on Dec 16.
The officials say measures are under way to scale up the children’s immunity in the infected districts and protect from the virus during the National Immunisation Day.
The province has recorded more than two-thirds (66) of the nationwide 91 polio cases of this year with 50 coming from Bannu division.
Dr Mohammad Salim, director of the Expanded Programme on Immunisation, told Dawn that the communication and social mobilisation plan, especially in high-risk UCs of the endemic districts, had been revised with a focus on the creation of demand for oral polio vaccine among people through community-based approach.
Official says good vaccinators being rewarded, others facing action
He said the Provincial Performance Committee under the coordinator of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) with heads of the WHO, Unicef and other partner originations as its members had been established that was finding ways to resolve the issues in consultation with similar committees at district level under the respective DCs.
“The deputy commissioners are holding open courts to address reluctance to vaccination, the results are quite encouraging. In Lakki Marwat, we have been able to administer drops 3,300 of 4,000 children, whose parents were reluctant in the past,” he said.
Dr Salim said the committees were rewarding good workers and taking disciplinary action against the non-performers as part of the accountability drive.
“Vaccination will now be fully backed by social mobilisation at the macro level to enlist parents’ support for getting their wards inoculated,” he said.
The director said the gaps identified in consultation with local staff in the past few weeks were being plugged through local interventions.
He said fake finger-marking used by parents to show their children are vaccinated was one of the big issues in Bannu, which was hard to prove.
Dr Salim said it was done as scores of vaccinators had been penalised by local jirga when they reported members of their localities as refusals, while many were thrashed by enraged parents.
He said to avoid the people’s wrath, vaccinators marked fingers of their children without vaccinating them.
“The markers supplied by the World Health Organisation are specially manufactured for the purpose. However, we are changing the people’s perception about polio vaccination,” he said.
The director said newborns at hospitals and others with zero dose would be given vaccines in high risk areas to increase immunity.
He added that steps were under way to do away the threatening environment and convince people to protect their children through vaccination.
EOC coordinator Abdul Basit said the matter was of grave concern as parents failed to immunise children and exposed them to disabilities.
He said it was unfortunate that parents didn’t realise the significance of preventing their children from a disease for which vaccine was available free of charge.
Mr Basit said the virus was on fire in southern districts, which circulated in environment hitting any unvaccinated or immune-compromised child.
“The only viable solution of the problem is to vaccinate the child in every campaign as only repeated doses can protect the child from permanent disability and stop virus,” he said.
The EOC coordinator asked parents to ignore rumours regarding polio vaccine saying the vaccine is completely safe and doesn’t cause any harm to recipients.
Published in Dawn, November 25th, 2019