More than 45% of Pakistan’s total population is not aware that polio can be prevented through vaccination, a United Nations Children Fund (Unicef) report revealed.
According to the report entitled ‘Pakistan Polio Communications Review’, which was made available with The Express Tribune, only a very small number of parents are aware of the risk that their child may contract polio.
Unicef conducted research in 29 high-risk districts to evaluate key challenges in communications and social mobilisation in order to come up with improved strategies to create awareness about the disease.
The report revealed that 97% of respondents had heard the term ‘polio’; 87% categorised polio as a disease and only 55% were aware of vaccination as a way of preventing the disease.
Only one parent out of three realises their child is at risk of contracting polio this year. According to the report, susceptibility to the virus is highest in Balochistan, where 59% of respondents noted their concern.
The report also highlights the role of hundreds of district and union council communication officers who were allegedly hired, without the knowledge and support of the provincial governments, on heavy salaries and perks during the current year.
“Although many parents have been misinformed that the oral polio vaccine (OPV) could lead to infertility and paralysis, the majority believes it is safe,” the report states.
Many parents refuse to monitor the vaccination due to a misconception that OPV may cause infertility. However, 91% of respondents noted that they have never refused vaccination.
According to the report, vaccinators are the most important means of spreading awareness in Sindh, while radio announcements were the most common in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata).
Moreover, 59%, 33% and 41% of respondents in Sindh, Fata and Balochistan, respectively, find polio teams helpful.
Unicef media officer Abdul Sami informed The Express Tribune that the chief of the Unicef polio section Dennis King was not available for comment due to prior commitments.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 5th, 2012.