Mardan and Swabi are rapidly becoming a major threat to the government’s polio eradication efforts as 7,418 and 4,258 children have not received oral polio vaccine in September’s immunisation campaign in both the districts respectively.
The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa recorded 31,572 refusals in the September campaign, data reveals. According to record, of the 5.11 million targeted children, 4.53 million were vaccinated with 89 per cent coverage against the target of 95 per cent in line with the National Emergency Action Plan for polio eradication 2012.
Unvaccinated children in other high-risk districts are; Peshawar 2,236, Lakki Marwat 2,967 and Charsadda 1,668, who according to the officials posed threat to the immunised children. Battagram also registered 4,167 refusal cases, Nowshera 3,895, Kohat 1,040, Dera Ismail Khan 899, Karak 797 and Abbottabad 429.
According to the report prepared by the health department, a total of 389,932 children remained unvaccinated because they were not present when the health workers visited their houses during immunisation days.
Officials said that the global community thought that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which recorded seven of 39 polio cases in 2013, was a main source of polio virus transmission to the countries long declared polio-free. The concern has been raised among the health department about the refusals.
They said that the source of concern was that these refusing families were in scattered communities, which posed a serious threat to the polio eradication efforts.
They said that refusal cases existed in almost all districts. Some families are unwilling to allow vaccinators to administer OPV to their children because they are under misconception that this is prohibited in Islam, while others thought the vaccine as a tool used allegedly by Western countries to render the recipients sterile.
Health workers in rural areas of Mardan, Swabi, Charsadda and Peshawar are hesitant to take part in the campaign after the assassination of 13 persons in polio-related campaign in last one year, they said.