LAHORE: More than 4,000 families refused to administer their children with polio drops during an ongoing immunisation drive in Punjab.
Health department officials said that the refusals, originating from five districts of the province, stem from an anti-vaccine video being propagated on social media.
They added that more than 4,000 refusal cases were reported from the province — the most from Rawalpindi where 2,200 families did not let health workers administer polio drops to their young ones.
Officials said health teams also faced similar trouble in the districts of DG Khan, Rajanpur, Muzaffargarh and Toba Tek Singh.
They claimed that the false and baseless campaign against the polio vaccine is to blame for the refusal cases.
Media reports had stated earlier that a fake video regarding deaths caused by the polio vaccine had gone viral and led to refusal cases in Rawalpindi last month.
According to the government, five out of eight children paralysed by the poliovirus in 2017 came from families refusing vaccination due to misconceptions.
On Monday, the second last polio campaign of the current low transmission season commenced across the country except for Bajaur Agency of the tribal areas.
According to the federal government, a total of 37.71 million children under five years of age were to be targetted in the immunisation campaign, including 19.38 million in Punjab, 8.85 million in Sindh, 5.73 million in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 2.46 million in Balochistan, one million in FATA, 0.7 million in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, 0.238 million in Gilgit Baltistan and 0.33 million children in Islamabad.
A total of 260,000 personnel will strive to achieve targets across Pakistan, a press release had stated, adding that the campaign will end today with a surplus day for missed areas.
Brink of success
Pakistan is one of only three countries in the world, along with Afghanistan and Nigeria, that suffers from endemic polio, a childhood virus that can cause paralysis or death.
The country has been battling polio for the past several years and is close to completely eradicating the crippling disease.
The number of cases has declined from 306 in 2014 to 54 in 2015, 20 in 2016 and eight in 2017.
In 2018, only one polio case has so far been reported from Dukki, Balochistan.
A country must have no cases for three consecutive years in order to be considered to have eradicated polio by the World Health Organization.
“We’re really very close to eradicating the disease,” the country’s national coordinator on polio, Mohammad Safdar, had told Reuters when the campaign was launched on Monday.