Communication breakdown: Reported refusals leave over 30,000 children at risk

More than 12,000 parents did not allow teams to vaccinate their children in recent drive

Our Correspondent November 27, 2014

PESHAWAR: More than 30,000 children in Peshawar district have been left vulnerable to the crippling poliovirus because their parents refused vaccination during the most recent polio drive.

An official of the provincial health department told The Express Tribune on Thursday that 12,224 refusal cases were recorded during November 23rd’s polio drive.

More than 0.75 million children were supposed to be immunised in the one-day campaign, but only 0.64 million children could be reached. Of those, 31,452 children could not be administered the vaccine because their parents refused, he said.

The drive was held in 97 union councils of the district and 4,260 health teams went door to door giving the crucial vaccine to children below the age of five.

The health department had directed the district health officers (DHO) to personally monitor the campaign. DHOs had been told they would be held responsible if incorrect data of vaccinations is submitted.

According to the health department official, despite such instructions, refusal cases were also recorded from Shaheen Muslim Town and Yakatoot which are hardly five kilometres away from the district health office. “Around 344 parents refused vaccination in Shaheen Muslim Town, 499 in Mathra and 312 in Maryamzai and Badhaber areas,” he said.

Vaccination teams that went to Chagharmati, Haryana, Regi and Mera Kachori areas on the outskirts of the provincial capital also faced a similar resistance from parents.

Senior health department officials could not be contacted despite repeated attempts.

The country has reported over 262 polio cases, a majority of them from the tribal areas.

Earlier this month, a countrywide three-day emergency immunisation drive was conducted in 76 districts across Pakistan after the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) criticised the country’s immunisation programme and a high-level meeting led by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif renewed the pledge to eradicate polio.

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


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