After around 16,000 families in the province refused to vaccinate their children against polio, worried health authorities have decided to embark on a special vaccination drive in the last week of the month.
“The government has already directed the civil administration to take legal action against elders of families who refuse to administer polio drops to their children,” an official at provincial health secretariat told The Express Tribune here on Tuesday.
Recently, polio positive cases were detected in Peshawar, Charsadda, Mardan and Lakki Marwat districts. Hectic meetings between senior officials from the districts’ health departments and civil administrations are being carried out to ensure the campaign targets are met and the vaccination teams are provided security.
When contacted, Dr Janbaz Afridi, deputy director of the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) confirmed the negative attitude many families harboured against polio drops. He said the government has already devised an ‘Augmented National Emergency Action Plan’ aiming at interrupting polio virus circulation in the country by the end of this year.
“The health department is going for a special polio eradication drive from August 27,” Afridi informed, adding that during the special three-day drive, around 1.8 million children below the age of five from 153 union councils (UC) will be vaccinated against the disease.
“The children belong to 48 UCs of Peshawar, 18 from Charsadda, 33 from Lakki Marwat and 44 from Mardan,” Afridi added.
Twenty-nine polio positive cases were detected in the country this year so far; 21 of these were reported from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P).
Dr Janbaz said that out of those 21 cases, 13 were reported from Fata while the remaining eight were reported from various districts in K-P. Meanwhile, three cases each surfaced in Sindh and Punjab and two were reported from Balochistan.
Senior health and civil administration officials confess the anti-polio drive faces numerous hurdles. The ban on vaccination in North and South Waziristan has deprived more than 200,000 children. Khyber Agency’s Bara tehsil has been inaccessible for vaccination teams since September 2009 as well. Of Fata’s 13 polio positive cases, 10 were reported from Bara. Without access to Bara and Waziristan, the Augmented National Emergency Action Plan’s goals remain at serious risk.
Internal migration has also hindered efforts to eradicate the disease. Official data reveals more than 150,000 families from Bara are living as internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Peshawar and its adjoining areas.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 15th, 2012.