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    Fake Polio Vaccine Markings in Pakistan

    ChildrenFake Polio Vaccine Markings in Pakistan
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    Fake Polio Vaccine Markings in Pakistan

    Pakistan reported two polio cases from North Waziristan earlier in April, after a gap of 15 months. Now, health authorities say, polio vaccination teams in North Waziristan, under pressure to tick the boxes, were engaged in fake markings.

    By Abdul Sattar

    In the face of a barrage of questions over the re-emergence of polio, health authorities in North Waziristan say that vaccination teams were pressured by parents and villagers to falsely mark vaccinations.

    The reporting of two cases of children with polio in North Waziristan in the month of April is a major setback, especially since no new cases were reported during the preceding 15 months. The World Health Organisation says that polio remains endemic in Pakistan and war-torn Afghanistan.

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    Now, the North Waziristan Additional District Health Officer, Dr Shams has put the blame squarely on the vaccination teams. He said that local polio vaccination teams were marking children as immunized without bothering to administer them vaccine.

    Dr Shams told TNN that both the cases in the district were first since 2019. “The first case was reported from the Essuri area on 22 April while second case was reported from Mir Ali Shah Khadri area on 30 April,” he told journalists.

    Dr Shams said that two years old girl was crippled by the virus in the second case.

    He said that an emergency polio campaign has been undertaken in the district following the detection of the cases and children have been given injections, besides being administered polio drops.

    However, he added both the children were left out in past polio campaigns.

    He said that health authorities also held meetings with parents and area elders before the polio campaign. Besides, he added that another campaign will be launched later this month in the same area.

    Pakistan Polio Vaccination

    Parents refuse

    Parents have misgivings about the polio vaccine and are refusing to cooperate with polio vaccination teams to administer the vaccine, the official said.

    He cited the instance of a village named Khadri, with a population of hundreds of children, where parents were not allowing their children to be inoculated or vaccinated.

    “During polio campaigns, these parents forced the polio vaccinators to mark their children as vaccinated,” he said. Besides, he added that the locals used to coerce the parents into fake markings.

    On the other hand, he added, monitoring teams rarely ventured into the area for security reasons. However, he added that the recent immunization drive achieved complete vaccination with the cooperation of the law enforcement agencies.

    Dr Shams said that type WPV was present in Bannu and its environs for past many years and its presence was also detected in environmental samples collected from the area.

    He said the district had reported nine cases earlier in April 2009 while two more cases were reported last month.

    Khyber Pakhtunkhwa reported 22 polio cases in 2020 and no case was reported earlier last year.

    Fake markings

    Dr Ayub Rose, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s former Director General Health too said that the affected children had neither received polio nor other vaccines.

    He said that with no polio cases reported for over 15 months had given hope of Pakistan being declared polio free after three years. However, he regretted that people were falling for propaganda and were not inoculating their children.

    Dr Rose said that emergence of polio cases in Pakistan and particularly in Pashtun belt was a worrying sign and that the fake marking remained a major issue in polio campaigns.

    He said that to overcome this issue, health authorities have introduced a tracking system in six districts of southern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and this has been giving good results.

     

    Abdul Sattar is a journalist based in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, North-West Pakistan.

    Image: UNICEF

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