PESHAWAR: Amidst a remarkable decline in polio-affected cases throughout the country, Health officials in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) still fearing threats to its untiring efforts which lead to the eradication of poliovirus as well as approaches to children from almost of inaccessible and remote areas.
During a day workshop for media workers at Nathyagali, Abbottabad, Dr Imtiaz Ali Shah head of Anti-Polio Campaign said, “efforts for complete eradication of poliovirus entered into a crucial decisive stage and its success will require joint efforts on the part of each and every member of society.”
He recalled that access to children in particular and adults in general from remote areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa included former tribal regions remain a hard task due to extremism and terrorism. But now most of the regions are under control and in access of health department, he remarked.
During the workshop, the health and media experts have stressed the need for coordinated efforts by cross segments of society for creating parental appeal for polio vaccination as polio was not curable and the only prevention was vaccination.
Technical Focal Person BMGF Dr Imtiaz, Team Leader UNICEF Dr Joahar, Provincial Polio Eradication Officer WHO, Dr Illaudin represented EOC KP on the occasion. Senior journalist Shamim Shahid dilated on the role of media in polio eradication
The UNICEF Team Leader Dr Johar oriented journalists on the global and national status of
polio and the roadmap for polio eradication initiative. He explained in detail Oral Polio Vaccine
(OPV) and IPV vaccination and how it builds gut and serum (blood) immunity and the need for repeated vaccination.
Speaking on the occasion, Technical Focal Person for PEI Dr Imtiaz Ali Shah said that polio eradication initiative (PEI) has made a significant progress in the province with zero cases this year so far while one case last year and hoped that soon the disease will be stamped out from the last region of the world where wild poliovirus was still in circulation.
He appreciated media for supporting the national cause of polio eradication saying that polio was declared a national emergency since 2011 and national emergency action plan (NEAP) was implemented.
Dr Imtiaz also oriented the journalists on national, provincial and district level structures for polio eradication that showed government ownership and seriousness in polio eradication adding that communication strategies were revised as communication for eradication that will have a greater focus on ground level issues and masses appeal.
Provincial Polio Eradication Officer WHO Dr Illaudin spoke at length on vaccine efficacy, OPV, IPV, types of polio, historical background besides replying to various questions of journalists.
Senior Journalists and ex-president Peshawar Press Club Shamim Shahid spoke at length on the role of media for polio eradication and urge media to work on development journalism which was very popular in the west.
He asked the official concerned to share in time relevant information to the journalists so that negative or unverified news were not published or aired.
On this occasion, high ups of health department confirmed that refusal cases on the part of parents and other close relatives are still a serious matter before the health department and UN agencies extending due support in polio eradication. During the workshop, health department officials confirmed that so far 36,000 parents in various parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are reluctant to vaccinate their children below of five years.
Dr Imtiaz Ali Shah said, “a well-planned strategy has been framed for making convince parents who are reluctant to vaccinate their children. Besides visiting door to door, community, social, political and religious elders are being used for the purpose.” He was hopeful of vaccinating 100 per cent children in the new anti-polio drive campaign.
Dr Imtiaz Ali Shah confirmed that Shaheen Muslim Town and Larama Union Councils in Peshawar are still considered sensitive due to the presence of poliovirus. “Situation in Larama is under control whereas parents are cooperating but in Shaheen Muslim town the parents are reluctant to vaccinate children.” He contradicted news items pertaining to the death of three children in the same locality which sparked the situation, saying “polio vaccine is so safe and couldn’t cause deaths.
The situation remains very critical for government in general and high ups of the health department in particular when 368 polio cases detected in 2014 last. Majority of these cases were from North Waziristan and Tirrah valley of Khyber Agencies. Both the region were badly affected by terrorism and extremism and its children didn’t vaccinate for over 10 years. However, military operations against terrorists enabled the health department to approach and vaccinate children and even adults, thus getting the goals of countering polio cases. During the current calendar year, only three cases of polio detected and all these cases reported from Baluchistan.
Dr. Imtiaz Ali Shah and his other team members were hopeful of getting the zero level of polio cases during the current calendar year.
Pakistan and Nigeria are the only two countries in the world whereas the polio virus is still present and is a serious threat to human beings.