MARDAN, Aug 30: The district coordination officer of Mardan on Thursday ordered the arrest of six people for refusing vaccination of their children against polio and creating obstacles to immunisation of other children.
“Cases have been registered against them under Section 3 of the Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance. Police have been ordered to arrest them,” Zakaullah Khattak told Dawn.
He said the people in question belonging to Takhtbai and Mardan city would be detained for one month as they harassed female vaccinators and threatened male health workers taking part in immunisation campaigns.
He said they also refused to get their children vaccinated against polio and pressured other locals to do so.
“Polio is one of the top priorities of the government because it has been causing disability among children. Giving polio drops to children until five years of age safeguard them against crippling disease,” he said.
The DCO said the said people were also involved in propaganda against vaccine.
He said he had issued strict directives to the health department to report such incidents to his office for action.
Mr Khattak said the government had twice sent a jirga to persuade the said people to stop opposing polio vaccination, but to no avail.
He said some vaccinators felt demoralised after facing threats but the government’s action against troublemakers had restored their confidence.
Local health officials said refusals against OPV had risen in recent months because of misconceptions against vaccines.
“The arrest warrants against six persons by the DCO will help decrease refusals,” an official said.
He said the government and its partner organisations had miserably failed to cope with increasing number of refusals against OPV but lack of a communication system hampered social mobilisation to woo families opposing vaccination.
“We need a proper system to tell the people that vaccine is the only solution to protect children from poliomyelitis. It is not difficult to do away with refusals when we adopt socially acceptable communication policies at grassroots levels,” he said.
The official said the people were under misconception that vaccines caused impotency and infertility and were therefore not allowed in Islam.
According to him, last year, former Peshawar DCO Siraj Ahmad Khan had ordered FIR against five families in Peshawar for refusing OPV.