In an effort to change the negative perceptions regarding anti-polio vaccines, the Prime Minister’s Polio Monitoring Cell and United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) have decided to seek help from the famous cricket Shahid Afridi.

According to official sources, efforts to engage the charismatic cricketer began three months back in a bid to appoint him as the “Polio Champion” alongside Aseefa Bhutto Zardari, who is currently the ambassador for polio eradication in the country.

Since then, exclusive photo shoots and video recording sessions have been conducted with Afridi which will be used as a part of Unicef-funded advertising and mass media campaigns in future.

His Pashto-speaking background can be highly influential in tribal areas and other Pashto speaking localities, where the prevalence of the crippling disease is the highest, an official said.

Sources also revealed that the cricketer’s appointment will be announced during a ceremony before the upcoming anti-polio campaign in the second week of this month that will be followed by a mass media campaign.

The polio cell’s spokesperson Mazhar Nisar, when contacted, confirmed Afridi’s appointment to The Express Tribune. Asked about the role of Aseefa, he said she will continue to serve as the official ambassador for polio eradication.

Responding to a question regarding the difference between a polio ambassador and a polio champion, he said, “Our ambassador was the first child to receive vaccine from former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. She is the face of our campaign while the celebrities involved in this endeavour are our champions.”

Published in The Express Tribune, July 3rd, 2012.