PESHAWAR: The dream of ending polio could not be materialised in 2016 and considering the ground reality it is highly unlikely that this target will be achieved in 2017, since 139,097 kids could not be vaccinated during the last campaign in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P).
According to a health department official, during the three-day anti-polio campaign, which was launched on February 27, some 0.7 million children missed the vaccination drive. However, he added that this number decreased to 0.1 million after they conducted a catch-up campaign.
Meanwhile, another health official who spoke on the ‘not available’ children stated that vaccinating such children was not a problem, since the polio teams vaccinate these children wherever they see them during the campaign. However, for him the real issue was ‘the repeated refusal cases scattered all across the province.’
The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, stated that earlier they would receive clusters of refusal during their campaigns and polio teams would vaccinate the cluster refusals. Currently, he said the all cluster refusals had decreased but there still were chronic refusal cases.
“Yes, there are some [refusal] cases during every campaign but we have also changed our strategy by trying to convince them to take the polio drops, rather than putting them behind bars,” he said, adding that ‘parents are constantly refusing polio drops to their kids.’
When asked about the number of refusal cases, the official stated that they had received 6,441 refusal cases and highlighted that the majority of these cases were from Peshawar district, which he described as a serious issue.
“We still have some 1,856 parents who have been refusing polio drops to kids in Peshawar district, followed by 1,015 in Lakki Marwat, 808 in Charsadda and 752 in Bannu district,” the official said. He added that the figure in other districts was below 500.
Another senior health official stated that besides refusal cases, some 133,000 children were not available at their homes when polio teams visited them.
“Some 17,665 such cases have been reported from the provincial capital, which was the highest number of not available children in any district during the campaign,” he said. Commenting on other districts, he said that 14,068 such cases were reported from Nowshera, 11,000 from Swat and less than 1,000 cases were reported from other districts in K-P.
When asked about a catch-up campaign, the official stated that they were not in favor of a catch-up campaign for 15 days as this stops the polio teams to prepare for the next campaign.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 7th, 2017.