ISLAMABAD: Health experts fear that the uncertain status of polio vaccination among children who have been brought along by sit-in participants may pose a possible threat to residents of the capital.
They said children who have come from high risk zones such as Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), Charsadda, Mardan and Peshawar might not have been vaccinated against the crippling disease and could pose a threat to children living in areas with immunity gaps.
Capital Development Authority (CDA) Health Services Director Dr Hasan Urooj told The Express Tribune that there could be a possible threat of spread of infectious diseases such as polio due to unhygienic conditions being created by the marchers.
“The site where the protesters are lacks proper washrooms. Children are defecating in the open air and diapers are not being properly disposed.
“I worry that unvaccinated children could lead Islamabad’s ten years as a polio free city to end,” he said.
Dr Urooj further said is it not possible to identify vaccinated and unvaccinated children in large crowds.
He said an anti-polio drive was planned to start from August 25, but if the protests continue into Monday, there are chances it will be postponed.
Vaccinating sit in participants
On the other hand, the Capital Administration and Development Division (CADD) on Friday has issued directives to the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims), Polyclinic Hospital and National Institute of Rehabilitative Medicine (NIRM) to make arrangements to vaccinate children brought along by sit-in participants.
“Health should not be compromised at the cost of any protest or other political issue,” said CADD Minister Usman Ibrahim, according to a press release.
He further said that all the children are the children of Pakistan and responsibility for their well being lies with the government.
“Our teams will go to the protesters and vaccinate children. People are requested to cooperate with the medical teams,” said Ibrahim.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Dr Rana Muhammad Safdar, the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) national manager said it would be difficult to vaccinate all the children.
“The only way is if the children are vaccinated at local hospitals,” he said. Moreover, the marchers are anti-government, “so it may be difficult to convince them to get their children vaccinated,” he said.
He said that ahead of the marches, a plan was floated to vaccinate children coming from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) at the Attock Bridge, but it did not materialise.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 23rd, 2014.