ISLAMABAD: Misperceptions among people have caused heavy setback to the anti-polio drive, while the attacks on polio workers and escorting policemen have killed 44 people till date.
According to information available with this correspondent, 25 polio workers and security personnel have been killed and several others injured in the past three months. During that period, medics have confirmed 24 polio cases across Pakistan, with 19 in North Waziristan, the official sources said.
Regardless of threats to their lives, low-paid polio workers are moving forward to eliminate the crippling disease from Pakistan, a senior official of Prime Minister Secretariat told Daily Times on Wednesday. The country will pay Rs 24.4 billion rupees for polio eradication over the next three years, according to the prime minister’s polio cell.
Minister of State for National Health Services, Regulations and Co-ordination (NHSRC) Saira Afzal Tarar on several occasions has called for the redoubling of efforts to eradicate polio and voiced her determination to continue until Pakistan has immunized every single child. Although not every location is safe for conducting vaccinations, the government has secured several places for such work.
The official added that though polio workers’ positive attitude stands strong in the face of danger, they are struggling to counter lies and rumours about the vaccine.
“There are rumours that the vaccine is meant to decrease the Muslim’s birth rate by spreading impotency and that it contains pig fat.
These are totally baseless and false lies.” Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) Deputy Director Dr Jan Baz Afridi said such rumours do complicate the vaccine effort.
“Sexual impotency is a non-issue, it is the safest vaccine ever produced,” Elias Durry, WHO’s polio eradication chief in Pakistan, said. “Western countries also used it, and nobody complained about it. The programme has helped vaccinate 2-3 billion people globally, including in Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries, Durry said.
Secretary General Wafaqul Madaris Pakistan, Maulana Mohammad Haneef Jhalandhri meanwhile said that according to the reports of the expert doctors, the polio vaccines do not contain ingredients injurious to health. Dispelling the misconceptions about administering polio drops, he said majority of religious scholars in the country agrees that these drops did not contain any forbidden ingredients.
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