In the wake of the global travel curbs recommended for Pakistanis over the spread of polio, hospital workers are scrambling to issue vaccination certificates to would-be travellers – in some cases without actually administering polio drops.
At least that is what is happening in Islamabad and Karachi, where some travellers are avoiding taking the required polio drops.
The Federal Government Services Hospital (Polyclinic) – the second largest public hospital in the capital – is one such place. Naheed Mushtaq, who is planning to visit Canada to see her daughter, went to the Polyclinic hospital to get a vaccination certificate as required for travel abroad.
“The man who was issuing the certificate just asked people to give their passport numbers – without any verification – and how many certificates they needed,” she described her experience. “He even asked us to get the certificate without taking polio drops saying there was no need.”
The hospital official stamped the certificate with the signature of Dr Farrukh Iqbal, the assistant executive director of the hospital.
The entire procedure is settled for a meagre Rs20, said Mushtaq.
Talking to The Express Tribune, the Polyclinic hospital’s spokesperson, Dr Tanveer Malik, said his colleagues are closely monitoring the entire process and denied Mrs Mushtaq’s claim.
However, a WHO official, who did not want to be named, said that there is a dire need for a mechanism for closely monitoring the issuance of the certificates.
The government should ensure that the certificate contains the batch number of the vaccination vial, he added.
The official clarified that the certificate is valid for one year and travellers do not need to acquire a new certificate for every trip.
More expensive in Karachi
However, in Karachi, one can get the polio-vaccination certificate for Rs100 or Rs50 without being administered polio drops. The certificate issuers (mostly polio workers) appointed at the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) and even the travellers who feel the certificate is mandatory believe that polio drops are not.
“It is just a formality,” a traveller told The Express Tribune. He was of the view that no one cares about the drops. “These [drops] are only for children, not for adults,” he said. “Have you ever seen any adult affected by polio?”
On the question of acquiring the certificate, he said that his neighbour is an employee of the EPI. “He is so kind. He handed over all the certificates to me within eight hours.”
Meanwhile, a supervisor at the EPI said, “I ask them to take the drops but no one listens to me.” The health official disclosed that some of his colleagues issue the certificates for Rs50 or even Rs100. “The rates are higher sometimes – it varies from case to case.”
Published in The Express Tribune, May 10th, 2014.
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