PESHAWAR: The number of polio refusal cases in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has dropped drastically in the recently-concluded vaccination campaign.
The authorities are planning to conduct a forensic analysis regarding the present success and causes of increase in refusal cases in the past.
According to official statistics, the province recorded 72,000 refusals against the oral polio vaccine (OPV) during the five-day campaign conducted from December 16. Vaccine’s hesitancy among the parents has been the main obstacle in the past.
Peshawar, which used to record bulk of refusals against vaccination in previous campaigns, has registered 39,082 cases; Kurram tribal district 6,504; Mardan 6,607; North Waziristan tribal district 6,211; Swabi 3470; Bannu 3,213; and Lakki Marwat recorded 1,909 while 147,919 children couldn’t be reached by vaccinators during the recent drive.
Authorities plan forensic analysis to ascertain causes of success
Coverage in KP was recorded at 98.2 per cent. The province has detected 79 polio cases of the total 11 confirmed countrywide in 2019 so far.
Dr Rana Mohammad Afzal, national coordinator of Emergency Operation Centre, told Dawn that a total 230,000 refusals had been recorded in the nationwide drive.
The number of children, who remained unvaccinated due to refusal against OPV, included 145,000 in Sindh; 72,000 in KP; and 8,000 in Balochistan.
“However, vaccinators are engaged to cover refusals and missed children from targeted union councils in core reservoirs. We hope that number of unimmunised children will further come down,” he said.
The refusals have come down to only 0.64 per cent in December from 2.54 per cent recorded in April this year.
Situation is Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is more encouraging because refusal rate in this highly infected province has come down to one per cent from 10 per cent, recorded in the last campaign.
Describing the success achieved in the recent drive as combination of efforts by government and partner agencies, he said that rising cases enhanced risk perception and parents were concerned about their children that prompted them to opt for vaccination.
“In addition, the wider support across political divide as witnessed during inauguration of the campaign sent a very positive message,” he said.
In the meanwhile, known religious and political leaders, community elders and media people played very positive role that paved the way for vaccination of more children, he said.
“We have unflinching support of law-enforcement agencies owing to which the frontline workers performed the door-to-door campaigns fearlessly and reached the people in hard areas that previously remained off-limits,” he said.
Dr Rana said that it was however just a positive beginning and they had a long way to go. “We cannot leave any child unprotected as the virus will hit us if even a single child remains unimmunised,” he added.
He said that given the recent strides with regard to ensuring over 99 per cent vaccination, they had planned to do a forensic analysis to determine the causes of success. He added that it was significant to carry out analysis and ascertain the causes of gaps and fill the same in next campaigns.
“The lessons learnt will be used to further improve next campaigns and strategies be chalked out to engage communities and address grievances of people,” said Dr Rana.
He said that the strategy also included strengthening routine immunisation by developing plans to vaccinate children against other vaccine-preventable ailments between the polio campaigns. “Newborns will be reached with birth dose by our vaccinators,” he added.
Published in Dawn, December 26th, 2019