Nothing can be of more concern than willful negligence on the part of polio programme staff who, according to an official concerned, have been feeding wrong data on polio immunization. This is believable as number of cases this year has risen exponentially.
Prime Minister’s Focal Person on Polio Babar Bin Atta is of the view that in the past all the attention was given to controlling the disease and reducing the number of reported cases rather than eradication of the virus. That is one probable reason that the deadly virus has made a comeback.
It is globally acknowledged that if 95 per cent children are vaccinated against the polio, that is a sure shot recipe for complete eradication of the polio virus. Our neighbouring India claimed to have vaccinated 95 per cent of children and it is declared as a polio free country. Conversely in Pakistan, the polio programme has been claiming to have vaccinated over 99pc of children but the results on ground belie that claim.
There are cultural and religious reasons as well that hamper the efforts. Mainly it is Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and certain neighbourhoods in Karachi. There are pockets in Punjab as well where people were found to be reluctant to have their children administered with polio vaccine. So much so that in Lahore two polio cases emerged in the recent months. Once media reported that actor Fawad Khan’s wife refused to let the anti-polio team in his house.
Some schools in Peshawar of students fainting enmasse after the adminstring of vaccine. The students were admitted to hospitals only to be released a while later. Some people attacked and set on fire a health unit in Peshwar.
Now, according to a newspaper report some parents marked their children’s fingers on their won while in fact they were left out of the polio campaign.
Acording to a survey conducted last month in Peshawar, parents in most of the cases did not know that a child cannot be considered safe unless they have been administered vaccines periodically.
There is a perennial security issue for the polio teams across the country. And there is hardly any campaign in the recent years that has not seen the polio workers or their security detail attacked.
Atta has a point when he says that in the past, the programme was considered as the disease control programme rather than the virus eradication programme.
The number of cases reported this year is alarmingly high and the government needs to devise a smart strategy to cull this deadly virus that dots the whole landscape.