Parents’ resistance to polio drops

THERE have been numerous nationwide anti-polio campaigns but despite all this the virus is still there especially in three pockets of FATA, Quetta Block and Karachi which should be really a source of concern not only for the Government but people of the country. Coverage in the just concluded drive is reported to be 97% with parents of about 47,000 children refusing to get their kids vaccinated. About 131,000 children were reported with zero routine doses during the campaign.
Polio (poliomyelitis) is a highly infectious debilitating virus that targets the nervous system of children, causing partial or complete paralysis of their limbs and therefore, resistance of parents to administration of polio drops to their children is regrettable but not unimaginable in a country where ignorance, superstitions and wrong notions are routine in many areas and segments of the population. The campaign faces many challenges, but perhaps the most pressing is the matter of continuing threats against polio vaccination teams issued by armed religious groups such as the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and its allies. Such groups allege the vaccine is part of a plot to sterilise or infect children, a belief that has been disseminated through some mosques and clerics in the country. All this is product of lack of knowledge but as a consequence we have reached at a stage where polio teams are escorted by police or army troops, making mockery of the country in the comity of nations where already negative perceptions prevail about Pakistan. We believe that apart from bureaucracy, it is fundamentally the failure of political parties; religious parties, groups and scholars as well as opinion leaders who have remained passive throughout on an issue that is directly linked to the health of the nation. Ulema, teachers, media and NGOs will have to play a leading role in countering wrong notions and persuading parents to go for polio vaccination for the sake of their own children and the cause of a healthy society.

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