PESHAWAR: With vaccinators in the province still struggling with cases of parental refusals, health experts have urged the government-elect to introduce — once they are in power — strict measures so that parents think twice before turning away vaccinators.
Health experts from the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) chapter of the Pakistan Pediatric Association (PPA) stated that the ratio for essential immunisation was too low in the province. This situation was complicated by the chronic refusals (polio) and posed a serious threat for those immunised against the crippling virus.
They stated that in Europe and other developed countries, immunisation cards were mandatory for seeking admissions to schools. Since the ratio was too low here, the government could look into introducing such measures which could prove fruitful in protecting children.
“Unless we have strong political and bureaucratic will, we cannot achieve our target,” was the way senior paediatrician Professor Dr Ashfaq informed a gathering held in connection with PPA’s intervention for decreasing refusal cases during anti-polio campaigns.
Dr Ashfaq stated that the myth that these drops caused infertility were baseless, particularly since religious scholars have endorsed the drops. He added that the crippling virus has been eliminated from the world and only three countries, including Pakistan, still suffer from it.
Professor Dr Abdul Hameed stated that several things should be conditioned to a vaccination certificate. In this regard, he suggested that the education department must introduce chapters on vaccination while the information department runs a separate cell to counter propaganda.
“If there are rules for national identity cards, passports, form ‘B’, why does not the provincial assembly legislate for immunization, making it compulsory for seeking admissions or even obtaining national identity cards and Form ‘B’,” Dr Hameed said.
He further stated that it will not only eradicate polio but other infectious diseases which claim the lives of thousands of children
Earlier, the Caretaker Health Minister Akbar Jan Marwat lauded improvements in polio eradication as with the number of polio cases in the country dropping from a high of 306 in 2014 to only three cases in 2018.
Marwat urged upon all the stakeholders including media to play role adding that Sehat Muhafiz did an outstanding job by reaching out to the target children despite many challenges.
Coordinator for K-P Emergency Operation Center (EOC) Abid Wazir stated that knocking out poliovirus from the country was not an easy job. However, with the strong commitment of the government, hard work of teams on the ground and the guidance of technical experts, the country was close to eradicating it.
He said that PPA could play a vital role in sensitization and mobilization of the community for vaccination as the community trusts them and urged them to create demand for vaccination in the community.
“Polio programme cannot start from the scratch as it went a long way and it will either succeed or fail,” he said, adding that the K-P EOC will increase its coordination with PPA and the media as they were the two major stakeholders of the programme.
Expanded Program of Immunization (EPI) director hoped that the media, being the key public opinion maker, continues supporting the cause.
He disclosed that they will be launching a 12-day measles campaign from October 15 in which 4.4 million children will be inoculated.
Senior paediatricians including Professor Dr Irshad, Professor Dr Hameed, Professor Dr Ashfaq and Professor Dr Amin Jan Gandapur spoke on safety and efficacy of vaccines with a specific focus on polio vaccine by saying that all vaccines were safe and never caused deaths.
They said that deaths and adverse effects following immunization were caused due to human errors and not by the vaccine adding media should play a role as a strong advocate of polio eradication and essential immunizations. They informed that deaths could be prevented through vaccination available at health facilities.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 7th, 2018.