More than 3.5 million children in the country missed out on polio vaccination after the United Nations ordered their field staff off the streets following a string of attacks on workers.
Nine volunteers were killed this week in Sindh and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P).
In K-P, the teams remained successful in reaching 83% of the targeted 5.2 million children, while there were 24,150 refusal cases.
The percentage remained the same for children in the tribal areas. The initial target was 716,036 from which 1,554 children were not vaccinated after their families did not give permission to do so.
Technical Focal Person Polio Eradication Cell Dr Imtaiz Ali Shah said that around 150,000 children were missed in Peshawar, 14,000 in Charsadda, 103,000 in Mardan and 8,000 in Nowshera. He added that the data from the remaining districts has not been received so far.
Discussing how grave the matter of children missing vaccination was, he said that they have raised the issue of providing security to polio workers, but law enforcement agencies have not taken any initiatives so far.
Dr Shah added that the Prime Minster’s Secretariat Polio Monitoring Cell has to give permission before they can carry out the next campaign.
He disagreed with the idea of confining the drive to hospitals and said that it will increase the number of polio cases as it had done before.
World Health Organisation’s (WHO) chief coordinator for polio eradication in Pakistan, Dr Elias Durry, praised the bravery of WHO workers, who managed to reach 14.9 million children out of 18.5 million“despite the horrendous attacks.”
According to the data of the December ‘sub-national immunisation days’ issued from the polio monitoring cell, out of the 18 million children expected to be vaccinated in Pakistan, the teams administered vaccines to 67%. The total number of ‘Not Available’ children in the country was nearly one million, while 37,668 refused the drops.
From other provinces
In Balochistan, 79% of 587,301 children were administered vaccines, while there were 1,632 refusal cases. Out of nearly seven million targeted children in Punjab, 60% were provided immunisation while there were 1,724 refusal cases.
In Sindh as well, 60% were vaccinated from polio from a total of 4.5 million children. There were nearly 8,000 refusal cases in the province.
The targeted children in Gilgit-Baltistan were 45,047, but there is no data available on how many children were vaccinated.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 22nd, 2012.