Polio returns to Balochistan: Toddler’s father says polio vaccine wasn’t refused

18-month-old girl was inoculated in Karachi.

Shezad Baloch July 28, 2014

QUETTA: The father of a polio-afflicted toddler claimed on Sunday that he had vaccinated his daughter himself three months ago, scotching reports that he had earlier refused the inoculation.

There have been four campaigns since March this year in Balochistan’s Mezai union council, within whose precincts the family lives, but 22-year-old Qadeem Khan says his daughter was vaccinated in Karachi.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and Unicef confirmed the detection of polio virus in 18-month-old Nazu Bibi on Thursday. This is the first reported case in Balochistan after a period of 30 months. The newest case brings the total number of cases this year in Pakistan to 102. The last reported case in Balochistan province was in 2012, and the last one detected in Qila Abdullah was in 2011. This time last year, the total number of reported polio cases was 21.

“I never refused to administer polio drops to my only child,” Qadeem Khan, aged 22, told The Express Tribune. Khan’s family has lived in Karachi’s Bilal colony, near Korangi, for five years. He said he administered the vaccine to his daughter here. “I returned to Qila Abdullah five months ago and three months before that, polio workers visited my home in Karachi and my child was vaccinated,” he said.

Khan says his daughter was given polio drops once in five months. When Nazu Bibi ran a fever and was unable to use her hands or legs, Khan took her to the hospital where doctors carried out tests and confirmed that she has polio.

“It happened because Allah wanted it to happen,” Khan said. “I believe my child will recover. Earlier, my child could not move her hand and legs but now she feels much better.”

The detected polio virus type is said to be Wild Polio Virus (WPV 1). It is yet to be investigated whether it came from Afghanistan, Karachi or Balochistan. According to Unicef, there were more than 20,000 families who had refused to administer polio drops to their children in recent campaigns, citing religious reasons.

As many as 73 cases were detected in Balochistan solely in 2011, and Qila Abdulla was declared the high-risk area as it had the highest number of cases in Pakistan in 2011. Since then, this was the first case confirmed on Thursday by WHO and Unicef.

Just last month, Unicef reported that the Wild Polio Virus Type 1 strain (WPV1) still exists in Quetta as samples collected from the sewage system of Takthani bypass in the city suggested the persistence of the virus in the environment.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 28th, 2014.

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