Parents in Pakistan refuse polio vaccination for 129 children

PHOTO: Parents in Pakistan refuse polio vaccination for 129 children

ISLAMABAD - Parents having more faith in archaic notions than in modern healthcare refused polio vaccines to 129 children on the first day of the reinvigorated anti-polio campaign in the city on Monday.

Social supervisors of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), however, will visit them and try to convince them of the need and advantage of the vaccination in their own language Pashto.

An official statement of the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) said a meeting, held on Tuesday and chaired by Secretary NHS Ayub Sheikh, was informed that 36,483 children among the 38,803 targeted for the first day of the campaign were vaccinated. Vaccinators did not find the remainder when they visited their homes. They returned in the evening and vaccinated 828 of them.

They hope to cover the other left-out on the last day of the four-day campaign.

Altogether, 131,797 children will be vaccinated in the urban sectors, 33 rural villages and 14 urban slums. Islamabad territory has been divided into 16 zones and 88 sectors for the purpose. In addition to 50 transit points and 103 fixed centres, more than 400 mobile teams will scour the city to administer polio drops to children below 5 years.

Some localities of Islamabad have been marked as high risk areas. They include Budhara, Jhangi Syeda, I-11 Kachi Abadi, Mehra Abadi, Sarae Kharbooza, Ternol and some urban slums in the centre of the city.

Director Health CDA Dr. Hasan Orooj, who briefed the meeting about the campaign, later told Dawn that people who refused the vaccination to their children belonged to "all segment of life".

"We have divided them in two categories - the Permanent Refusals and the Temporary Refusals. People in the first category refuse every time the vaccinators approach the family and those second category just hesitate because they have been told the vaccination is Haram or injurious to health," he said.

"On Monday, a Pashtoon resident of Tarnol refused the vaccination to his child. I sent a Pashto-speaking supervisor to convince him and the man said he would allow the vaccination if he could convince the head of the family.

"That gave me the idea how to breakdown the barrier. I will ask the UNICEF to try the same," he said.

Children missed because of unavailability of the vaccine which will reach in the next two days, he said.

"In every campaign we cover 99 per cent children of the city. That is why sewage sample of Islamabad is negative for last six years and not a single case has been reported in the capital during last 13 years," he said.

While replying to a question Dr Orooj said that in ongoing campaign violent resistance is not observed. Moreover schools have also cooperated.

Dr. Hasan Orooj raised the issue of volunteer-based polio campaign at the meeting as Lady Health Visitor programme does not exist in urban Islamabad.