September 20th, 2020
Last month, health officials in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had set a target of vaccinating around 2.5 million children in the anti-polio campaign in the 22 districts of the province. Around 200,000 children were not given these drops after their parents refused.
Surprisingly, the highest number of polio drops refusal cases were from the provincial capital of Peshawar where parents of about 41,541 children did not allow administration of the drops. The cases of polio drop refusals were 6,537 in Mardan, 5,404 in Bannu, 3765 in Lakki Marwat, 1070 in Nowshera, and 1800 in Karak.
Parents list multiple reasons based mostly on hearsay and conspiracy theories about not administering polio vaccination drops to their children.
“I refused to give polio drops as there is not a single laboratory in the country that could verify the constituents in the drops,” a parent tells Voicepk.net. According to the parent, he believes children grow up at an abnormal pace when administered the polio drops. “It’s just similar to chicken feed given to poultry that makes them grow up in weeks instead of months,” he adds.
According to health officials, this is untrue.
“There is no danger in administering polio drops to children,” says Dr. Mehboob ul Rehman who has been working for the eradication of the disease for the last 30 years. He says he has come across no cases where the health of the children was adversely affected after being administered the polio drops.
Religious scholars also support and endorse anti-polio vaccination campaigns in the province. Many scholars have issued fatwas in support of administering the polio drops. “Polio drops are being administered to children in every nook and corner of the country and there is no harm in it,” says Maulana Muhammad Shoaib, chairman of the local peace committee. “Despite the fatwas, people are still refusing to give polio drops to children,” says Shoaib, adding that the parents only realize the importance of the polio vaccination after the poliovirus renders their children cripple for life.
One of the most significant reasons for parents’ refusal to give polio drops to the children is the COVID pandemic but a lot needs to be done so that no child is left out of the polio drive.
According to provincial minister Shaukat Yousafzai, the government is trying to increase the pace of the polio campaign by including all the stakeholders. However, Yousafzai warns that the government will take action against anybody for lapse and negligence in the campaign. The province reported 93 polio cases in 2019 while 22 cases have been reported this year.