The United Nation’s Children Fund (Unicef) has claimed that thousands of families refusing to administer polio vaccine to their children is not a matter of immediate concern and termed it as the lowest in the three polio endemic countries.
Responding to a story on vaccination refusal cases published in The Express Tribune recently, Ban Khalid Al-Dhayi, senior communication officer at Unicef, said only 47,000 of 34.2 million people have refused the polio vaccine. “Refusals do not constitute a problem in Pakistan, however, a cluster of refusals such as in Quetta, Karachi and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) are a big challenge,” she said.
The official said families refusing the oral polio vaccine in Pakistan’s high-risk areas have come down to 50 per cent since April last year, adding refusal rate in Pakistan is lowest among the three polio endemic countries.
Talking about refusal cases in K-P, the official said 16,700 in Peshawar, 6,591 in Mardan, 8,589 in Bannu, 3,357 in Charsada and 3,211 in Lakki Marwat refused the vaccine. Most refusals are due to religious misconception and misinformation, she claimed.
She said staff deployment at Comnet, the Unicef agency in charge of communication programmes, is based on five points: persistent virus transmission, refusal and unavailable clusters, mobile and migrant populations, positive environmental sampling and security-challenged areas.
A union-council wise analysis is regularly conducted and the staff is realigned according to the critical nature of areas, she said, adding that there over 1,800 staff members are deployed across polio high-risk districts of the country which is insufficient to cover the entire area.
Polio has been eliminated throughout the world except in Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan and is the most endemic in Pakistan, which has recorded 88 cases this year.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 10th, 2014.