Mishandling anti-vaccine scare | Pakistan Today

Mishandling anti-vaccine scare

  • KP govt creates problems for other provinces

Pakistan needs to work hard to overcome the persisting curse of polio which disables children for life. Except for three countries, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria, the disease has been eliminated from the world. Efforts made by international agencies and the Pakistan government led to a gradual decline in the incidence of polio over the years to 12 cases in 2018. What is needed to eradicate polio from the country is a strict enforcement of the vaccine administration regimen spread over a number of years. What stand in the way is the opposition to the campaign from a backward section of the clergy, and rumours spread to discourage immunization. What is required is a firm resolve accompanied by determined action by provincial governments with the support of the federal administration.

The anti-polio drive in KP suffered a setback on Monday due to spread of rumours in Peshawar about a number of children having suddenly fallen ill and died after the administration of anti-polio vaccine. The biggest damage was done by a made up video shared on social media showing vaccinated children lying unconscious. The rumours led to an attack on a health facility, two polio teams being taken hostage in separate towns and two policemen guarding polio teams being shot dead. Hundreds of parents refused to allow vaccines to be administered to their children. The incidents in KP are having an impact on other provinces also. An anti-polio campaign worker was gunned down in Balochistan on Thursday

What was really needed was a display of political maturity by KP government. The PTI leaders, led by the CM, should have appeared on electronic media to dispel rumours and assure the public there was nothing to justify panic. The PTI’s social media team too should have been mobilised to counter the rumours. The government however did little beyond registering cases and arresting the rumour mongers Trained only to hurl accusations on the past governments for whatever goes wrong, a similar attempt was made initially but abandoned when it misfired.

The mischief has been done. How long will the scare persist affecting the performance of the polio workers remains a matter of conjecture.