ISLAMABAD: Despite UN claims of a sharp decline in the number of families refusing polio drops for their children during the recent immunisation campaign, almost 0.5 million children still missed out on the vaccine.
The World Health Organisation (WHO), United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (Unicef) and the Prime Minister’s Polio Cell stated on Monday that polio teams across the country have recorded a major decline in the number of families refusing polio drops during the recently held national door-to-door polio campaign.
According to data jointly released by polio partners, the number of refusing families has dropped from 80,330 during the first national polio round held in January 2012 to 45,122 in October 2012, implying thereby that 35,208 families who had previously refused polio immunisation for their children have now been covered.
As against 34,966 families refusing polio drops in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa during January, only 15,663 families in the province refused polio drops during the October polio campaign. Similarly, the number of refusals in Punjab declined from 6,233 in January to 1,702 in October. Around 10,100 in Balochistan, 17,100 in Sindh and 455 children in Fata had missed the October polio round against 12,813 in Balochistan, 23,244 in Sindh and 3014 children in Fata who missed due to refusals during January.
“It is a cause of grave concern that polio teams across the country have still missed 484,344 children during the last polio round,” stated Senior Coordinator for Polio Eradication at WHO Dr Elias Durry, while expressing concern over polio teams persistently missing the same children that have remained unvaccinated for the last many campaigns.
According to Dr Durry, the biggest hurdle that prevents Pakistan from attaining polio-free status is the number of children who are persistently being missed during the polio campaigns. “It took countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran very few rounds to eradicate polio because their secret ingredient was the ability to vaccine each and every child,” he said, further quoting the example of Iran, which achieved polio-free status after conducting only four national door-to-door polio campaigns.
“Where officials and polio teams across the country deserve due credit and appreciation for converting families that previously refused polio drops, we need to take adequate steps to ensure that the number of children missed for reasons other than refusals is also brought down,” Special Assistant to the Prime Minster Shahnaz Wazir Ali stated while praising the polio team members.
Commenting on the final results of the polio campaign, Unicef’s Chief of Polio Dennis King was of the view that work is to be done before Pakistan stands in the proud row of polio-free nations. “There is still work to be done on remaining refusals and especially on those kids who are consistently missed and have never been reached by vaccinators,” he stated.
Pakistan has reported a total of 47 polio cases during the current year as against 113 cases during the corresponding period last year.
Correction: In an earlier version of the story, the figure 0.5 million was mistakenly written as 5 million. The error is regretted.