PESHAWAR: The authorities claimed to have vaccinated 95 per cent of the target children against polio in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and efforts were underway to reach the missed children on the last day of the seven-day drive that ended on Sunday.
Peshawar Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Ali Asghar and his team visited the hotspots of refusal against the vaccine and wooed parents to immunise their children against the crippling disease.
The administration has been able to convince hundreds of parents in Peshawar, the epicentre of defiance against polio vaccination, to administer oral polio drops to the children below the age of five.
The vaccinators administered anti-polio drops to more than 95 per cent of the 745,863 target children in Peshawar, according to a press release.
Hundreds of refusal cases covered; role of security forces lauded
It said that members of the district administration visited the area notorious for hesitancy against vaccination and convinced the parents that their children required two drops in every campaign to stay safe from disabilities and brushed aside the impression that those contained any agents that caused impotence or sterility.
“It was the prime responsibility of the parents to give vaccine to their sons and daughters and ignore the propaganda of a handful elements that it is harmful,” the deputy commissioner told parents, who had been avoiding OPV to their wards in the previous campaigns.
Officials said that Chief Secretary Dr Kazim Niaz was personally supervising the polio immunisation drive in the province due to which there was a marked improvement in coverage of refusal against the OPV.
In every district, the administration visited the house of the people, who were unwilling to give drops to the people, they added.
The officials said that better security by police also made it possible for the health workers to perform their duty fearlessly and access the population in areas which were formerly inaccessible.
On Tuesday, a police officer escorting a polio team was shot dead by unidentified gunmen in Karak district but officials said that initial investigations revealed that the deceased had personal enmity, which led to his assassination. His death couldn’t be linked to polio vaccination, they said.
However, a social mobiliser Arshad Mahmood died on Sunday in North Waziristan tribal district due to heart attack while working in the field.
Dr Rana Mohammad Safdar, the coordinator of National Emergency Operation Centre for Polio, told Dawn that the recent campaign was a successful one, which would boot the immunity of children.
“A total of 287,000 frontline workers knocked at every door to vaccinate more than 40 million children below five years. In addition to OPV, Vitamin A was also administered to boost immunity of children against all diseases,” he said.
Workers observed strict safety precautions and measures to mitigate Covid-19 risks, he said. He added that the next campaign was planned in March and parents should get their children vaccinated from the nearby health facility if they were missed during the recent drive because of any reason.
“At the national level, we have achieved 98 per cent target while in KP and Islamabad it is 95 per cent. It is 99 per cent in Punjab, Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Sindh. We have achieved 101 per cent target in Gilgit-Baltistan,” he said.
Last year, Pakistan recorded 83 polio cases including 42 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 22 in Sindh, 17 in Punjab and two in Balochistan.
Dr Rana said that there was a slump in vaccination due to Covid-19.
He said that they expected more success in 2021 because of the upcoming scheduled campaigns.
“The parents should vaccinate their children in every campaign till five years. In this way, we can ensure healthy future of children. The role of security forces has been instrumental in reaching the children not only in hard areas but also in peaceful districts,” he said.
Published in Dawn, January 18th, 2021