Despite the frequent media attention being given to polio vaccination programmes across Pakistan, a disconcerting report has pointed to its inefficacy in spreading awareness to parents about the oral vaccination. According to documents prepared by Unicef Pakistan, the all-time low conversion rate of parents refusing the vaccine has devastated the country’s polio vaccination programme. Despite millions of dollars in aid from international donors to revitialise Pakistan’s largest public-sector health initiative, the programme is yet to meet success.
The rise in the inability to convince parents to allow their children to receive the polio vaccination is due to parents’ mistrust owing in part to the Dr Shakeel Afridi case, as well as security threats from the Taliban. Clearly, awareness programmes thus far have not been cogent enough to push parents towards potentially saving their children from a crippled future. This fact engenders the need for a full-force awareness campaign pulling all celebrities and government bodies to appeal to people refusing the vaccine. In achieving this, it is important to understand the reasons parents cite for refusing the vaccination so that these concerns can be specifically addressed. The exorbitant number of households refusing the drops indicates that the Taliban’s fallacies about the vaccination leading to sterility might be spreading.
The conversion statistics from this year have been dismal with tens of thousands of people refusing vaccination, which translates into the same number of households that might one day have to see a loved one suffer the debilitating disease. The time has come for these parents to respect the capabilities of modern medicine. For this to occur, more efforts need to be made to build trust between communities and the polio eradication campaign. The security situation does not help matters and for this, our law-enforcement agencies need to start doing a better job of protecting polio workers and catching and severely punishing their murderers.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 27th, 2013.
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