KP govt to ensure 100 percent polio vaccination of children

Keeping in view the increasing cases of polio in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) and its adjoining tribal areas and threats to the lives of health workers, the provincial government is initiating a plan for ensuring 100 per cent vaccination of children and offering protection to polio vaccinators. “Polio virus is in fact terrorism and vaccinators are engaged in jihad, therefore, the government is bound to take steps for their safety and protection,” remarked Health Minister Shaukat Yousafzai in a brief chat with Pakistan Today on Saturday. Yousafzai said that an important meeting will be held in Peshawar on Monday regarding measures to be taken for carrying out vaccination of all the children under five and ensuring the safety of vaccinators. Yousafzai said that the scheduled meeting would be attended by health managers from all over KPK and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) as well as senior officials of law enforcement agencies and representatives from the civil administration. Representatives of polio vaccinators and UN affiliated bodies extending help to the government in the drive aimed at eradication of polio in the region would also be present. Starting from a one-year-old girl baby in Peshawar, polio cases reached to 21 this year. Dr Janbaaz Afridi, Director of Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI), KPK told Pakistan Today that 17 out of the 21 polio virus cases were detected in KPK. He said that 12 cases were reported from all over FATA and eight only in Khyber Agency where violence has been in progress since several years. In response to a question, Yousafzai admitted that polio drives couldn’t be conducted in some areas due to violent conditions. “But it doesn’t mean that certain religious minded people are reluctant to vaccinate the children,” he remarked, adding that even religious leaders like Fazlur Rehman and Maulana Sami Ul Haq had themselves vaccinated the children. However, he confirmed that refusal reports were coming in from areas where violence has been in progress from the last several years. In this respect, he said that the provincial government was discussing ways and means for controlling the issue of refusal and was likely to come up with a comprehensive strategy shortly. The health minister further remarked that the situation in KPK and FATA is different from the rest of the country. He said that violence and crises had been in progress since a decade which had displaced millions of people. As a result, thousands of children could not be vaccinated which led to a sharp increase in polio cases. Regarding the current situation, Yousafzai expressed satisfaction over awareness among people of the province about the need to vaccinate children under five years.

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