Challenge remains despite drop in polio refusal cases

Published January 26, 2021
Officials pin hopes on district admin to cover children children missed during five-day campaign. — AFP/File
Officials pin hopes on district admin to cover children children missed during five-day campaign. — AFP/File

PESHAWAR: The authorities have brought down number of refusals against oral polio vaccine during the last drive in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa but the challenge still persists as there are parents, who show reluctance to immunise their children against poliomyelitis, according to sources.

“The last five-day drive started on January 11, 2021 has shown slight slump in defiance against polio vaccination but there is need to convince the parents, who continuously hinder the efforts to make the country free of the crippling childhood ailment,” officials said.

They said that a total of 39,549 children hadn’t been inoculated against polio owing to hesitancy of their parents against vaccination. The count of refusals was 39,770 in November campaign and in the last drive it showed a decline of only 221 children, who remained unvaccinated formerly and were vaccinated during the January campaign.

Officials pin hopes on district admin to cover missed children

Peshawar continues to pose threat to polio eradication as it has recorded 16,467 refusal cases against vaccination. However, the authorities claim that it is a big achievement in the context of previous campaign, which missed 20,058 children below five years. They said that district administration played main role in bringing down refusals in the provincial capital.

Peshawar has been in spotlight owing to the high number of refusal cases against vaccination. During the last drive, the deputy commissioner and his subordinate staff showed interest in convincing parents to immunise their children.

“During the campaign, deputy commissioners and assistant commissioners visited doorsteps of the people in the city and wooed parents that vaccination was extremely useful for their wards to save them from disabilities in future,” said officials. They added that most of the parents were hesitant due to which the initial count of missed children was 41,467 but the timely intervention by the administration made huge impact and almost cut down the number by two third in the catch-up drive.

Officials said that the number of refusals against polio drops was just 0.60 per cent of the 6,512,747 target children in the province but it could not be taken for granted because as far as eradication of poliomyelitis was concerned they needed to ensure that all children got two drops in every drive till they reached the age of five years.

Vaccination hesitancy has gone up in North Waziristan, which recorded 6,816 refusals as compared to 2,003 in November. In Lakki Marwat, the amount of defiance against OPV went up to 2,366 from 2,178 than the last year’s drive. Another achievement made by authorities is bringing down the refusals from 4,841 to 4,735 in Bannu.

Officials said that initially, the number of children left out of vaccination was 105,626 and it declined to 39,549 in catch-up period where district administration put in hard efforts.

“We need more active role of district administration to do away with refusing parents and thwart the misconceptions about vaccination. Our vaccinators don’t have any power to force parents for vaccinating their children but administration has the power to convince the people or use legal arms,” they said.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa recorded 22 cases of the nationwide 84 wild polio and 42 cVDPV of the countrywide 83 cases in 2020 because of less vaccination due to the onset of Covid-19. This year, no polio case has been reported.

Officials said they pinned hopes on the district administration under Chief Secretary Dr Kazim Niaz, a medical doctor, to deal with refusals and ensure immunisation of all children. “With resumption of full-scale campaign, workers observe strict safety precautions and measures against coronavirus, we hope better results in 2021. The next campaign will take place in March but the role of administration will be significant,” they said.

Published in Dawn, January 26th, 2021

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