More polio cases

It is clear that there are gaps in the immunity of the population, which is allowing the virus to spread

Editorial June 09, 2024


New confirmed cases of polio in Pakistan are a cause for great concern. The detection of Type-1 Wild Poliovirus in Dukki and Killa Saifullah districts of Balochistan has brought the total count of districts where the virus has been found in environmental samples to 44, along with at least four positive cases. For comparison, positive environmental samples were detected in only 28 districts last year, with six total cases. This is a distressing development, especially considering the efforts that have been made to eradicate polio in the country. The virus continues to spread, despite the extensive vaccination campaigns conducted by the government and massive support from international donors to eradicate the disease, which is now only endemic in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

It is clear that there are gaps in the immunity of the population, which is allowing the virus to spread. This is a result of poor performance on the part of the partners-led programme during the last two seasons. The quality of the polio campaigns must be improved to ensure that no children are missed out during vaccination drives. The authorities, healthcare workers and local communities must come together to address this issue. The importance of vaccination cannot be emphasised enough, and every effort must be made to ensure that all children are vaccinated against polio.

But while it is crucial that this campaign, which aims to vaccinate over 17.1 million children under five, is conducted effectively and reaches all areas where the virus has been detected, we cannot ignore other factors, such as the lack of sanitation that creates an environment conducive to the spread of polio and other diseases. There is also the risk to life and limb — a policeman guarding polio workers was killed in Lakki Marwat earlier this week. The government needs to find ways to improve sanitation and create awareness of sanitary practices all over the country, while also ensuring that anyone threatening vaccination drives, whether through violent or non-violent means, is taken to task. Our children’s futures depend on it.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 9th, 2024.

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