Pakistan started a nationwide polio campaign yesterday. The government called off the campaign in March due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The drive lasting for five days will vaccinate over 40 million children aged less than 5. The polio workers will go door to door to provide the vaccination services. Special Assistant to the PM on National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination requested the public to cooperate with the polio workers.
Poliomyelitis is a deadly disease that has shackled Pakistan for so many years. It is a contagious disease that was endemic in many countries in the 20th century.
Dr. Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine helped eradicate the disease from the world except for two counties: Pakistan and Afghanistan. Yes, you read it right. The world rejoiced when WHO declared Africa polio-free this August.
Polio cases in 2020:
Pakistan has a shocking number of Polio cases. The number of cases is 72 until now. The number had declined in 2018 to 12, but the year 2019 saw a surge of 147 cases.
‘Vaccine is Haram‘
Religious extremists in the past have termed the vaccine as haram. Tehreek-e-Taliban and Al-Qaeda term the vaccine as a plot to sterilize the Muslim community. A large part of the public believes the narrative of planned infertility by the West. In the year 2015, the government had to officially declare that the polio vaccine is Halal.
Attacks on Polio workers
Terrorism, illiteracy, and religious extremism have halted the vaccine drive many times. Nearly 90 vaccine workers have laid down their lives for this cause in the past seven years.
Vaccine workers are almost always met with anger and disgust. It’s appalling that the number of people refusing the vaccine is staggering high. The refusal rate is high due to rumors related to its side-effects.
In 2019, panic spread across the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region. The local media misled the public by spreading rumors. In a single day, nearly 25,000 children came to hospitals with complaints of vaccine-related side-effects. Local mosques and gatherings retaliated. The government stopped the drive immediately. The authorities arrested the suspects who were responsible for spreading fake news.
Does the vaccine really have potential side-effects?
So, the rumor has it that the polio vaccine causes infertility. However, research shows that the vaccine does not have any potential side effects. The possible side effect can be an allergic reaction that happens to 1 person in a million. Besides, in Pakistan, the vaccine is administered orally, so any side effect associated with an IV injection is avoided.
Bill Gates’ role in polio drive in Pakistan
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has supported the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. Recently, Bill Gates discussed the resumption of the polio drive with PM Imran Khan and Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa.
History of Polio campaigns in Pakistan:
The Polio campaign started in Pakistan in 1994. Since then, the cases have declined. The WHO and UNICEF have joined hands with the government to eliminate the virus once and for all. The widespread polio cases in the last two years issued a warning for the authorities. The drive was stopped due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, the government is focused on promoting the campaign with full force.
Pakistani Wheel Chair Cricketer has a special message for all of us.
Can you imagine your loved one crippling, crawling, or wheelchair-bound? We all have a duty. It’s a duty to our children, to humanity and our religion. If you fail, you will fail your children.