16 reasons we need to end polio in Pakistan

Pakistan is one of the only two polio-endemic countries in the world.
Published August 22, 2020

Polio is a long-forgotten memory in most regions of the world but it remains a scary reality in some.

Pakistan’s polio vaccination efforts have faced numerous challenges such as militancy and misinformation, and immunisation efforts from the government are underway in the country, there is still a long way to go before Pakistan can become polio-free.

Here are all the reasons we need to eradicate polio from the country:

1. Pakistan is one of the only two polio-endemic countries

Polio remains endemic in just two countries of the world — one of them being Pakistan and the other Afghanistan.

2. Poliovirus is contagious and spreads through contact

The virus is very contagious and spreads through personal contact.

For each case of paralytic polio, senior pediatrician, Dr D S Akram shares, there will always be at least 10 non-paralytic infections in other children.

3. Polio mainly affects children under five

The risk of contracting polio is most imminent in young children.

This year, around 40 million children under the age of five missed out on their routine vaccination due to lockdown measures around Covid-19, leading to a spike in cases.

4. Polio can be life-threatening in children

According to WHO, one in 200 infections lead to irreversible paralysis in victims — usually children under the age of five.

Among the paralysed, 5-10% pass away due to the immobilisation of their breathing muscles.

5. Large scale vaccinations can help boost immunity

According to Dr Rana Muhammad Safdar, National Coordinator for Polio Eradication in Pakistan, one in six million children may get parlaysed if the child is malnourished and with a compromised immune system.

The polio vaccine ensures lifelong immunity from the virus and is the only means of preventing the disease.

6. Polio can be completely eradicated from the world

Unlike most diseases, the crippling virus can be eliminated through vaccination.

There are three strains of the virus and none of them can survive outside a human body. It will die if it cannot find an unvaccinated person to infect.

7. There are cheap and effective vaccinations available for polio

Polio vaccines are readily available at low cost to help ward off the virus.

One of them, Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV), can be administered by anyone — even volunteers. The other, Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV) is given through intramuscular injection. Both vaccines are quite safe to use.

8. If not taken seriously, the polio situation can get worse in 2020

Even before the pandemic struck, there were strong signs that 2020 was going to be a bad year in relation to polio in Pakistan.

As we fight the novel coronavirus, other health issues too deserve due attention during the present crisis.

9. A polio-free world is a better place to live in

18 million people, who would have otherwise been paralysed by polio, are walking on their own today.

A world where no one feels undermined or weighed down by their physical shortcomings is certainly a world to look forward to.

10. Anti-polio campaigns are an investment in our future

If polio is not eradicated anytime soon, we could witness a resurgence of as many as 200,000 paralysed children each year.

This massive number can be an immense burden on Pakistan's economy — large-scale immunisation campaigns can prove to be an investment in our future.

11. Vaccination campaigns can improve child health and the country's health in general

Polio surveillance networks and campaigns monitor children for other health issues too, such as vitamin A deficiency and measles prevalence as well so they can be treated on time.

12. Timely immunisation can decrease the number of disabled dependents in the country

According to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistic statistics, one million people in Pakistan are suffering from different kinds of disabilities, as per the 2017 census.

In Pakistan, resources, opportunities and care systems for people with special needs are already scarce. An increased number of disabled dependents can burden the existing systems even more.

13. Polio can take a toll on its patients' mental health

Although polio infection had been a long-term morbidity around the world, only some have examined the psychological consequences of polio.

According to a study, polio patients suffer from psychological trauma due to sudden paralysis.

14. A polio-free world would save the global economy billions

Vaccination campaigns cost approximately US$1 per year — which is not sustainable in the long run. This cost can be allocated elsewhere, like education, once the world is free for the virus.

15. Global polio eradication would be history's greatest public health achievement

Eradicating polio from the face of the earth is an important milestone for the Decade of Vaccines, a commitment shared by 194 member countries of the World Health Assembly to extend the benefits of vaccines to every person by 2020.

16. Polio cases in Pakistan are increasing

Pakistan is presently struggling to curb a spike in the number of polio cases this year and a number of new cases are a cause for concern.

If even one child remains infected, there are at least 200 others facing the risk of contracting the poliovirus too. So if the virus is not eliminated anytime soon, the number is bound to rise.