Polio vaccination

Asifa Abbas

Pakistan is among the last three countries along with Afghanistan and Nigeria, where polio virus is still endemic. Pakistan and Afghanistan formed a single epidemiological block with periodic cross-border population movement which brings out the flow of virus in both directions. Both these countries are considered as the exporters of the wild polio virus. The major problem in eradication of polio from Pakistan is the militant organizations which derailed world polio eradication program in Pakistan. They imposed a ban on polio-vaccination campaign in FATA which is under their control and gave serious threats to the polio vaccinators.
Another major problem is the misconception of people about polio vaccines. More than 40,000 parents refuse to dispense the vaccine to their children in every campaign in FATA/ KP. They believe that the polio vaccine has banned ingredients including monkey fecal matter and pig fats which are considered haram in Islam. They have this misconception that polio vaccine causes infertility. This seriously jeopardizes Pakistan’s polio eradication efforts. Religious scholars are playing their role in this regard and declared polio drops as “halal” under Shariah law.
The insecurity of the vaccinators is another hurdle in fight with polio. They are still being murdered in the midst of a public health initiative. About 5500 policemen are now guarding these vaccinators for all campaign which has been found effective. In the high risk districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, government has ordered the execution of Section 144 in the consequence of anti polio vaccination campaign for the security of the vaccinators and to ensure that every child receives anti-polio drops. People think that polio vaccination twice or thrice a year is sufficient and that their children already have received vaccination. Social mobilizers and communication teams are working hard to satisfy people that there is no harm in repetitive vaccination and that the immune system of our children is weak so two or three vaccinations are not enough.
These failures in Pakistan’s polio eradication campaigns are now complicating the global scenario for a polio free world. WHO declared that Pakistan is responsible for 80% polio cases recorded globally and imposed strict travel limitations to stop the possible spread of polio virus from Pakistan to other countries because a few cases of polio are reported in China and Egypt which linked to the polio virus strain endemic in Pakistan. So for this reason the eradication of polio from Pakistan is so important.