- New cases throw doubt on vaccines
The detection of fresh polio cases in Mirpur Khas and Swabi has taken the nationwide tally to 101, compared to eight in 2016 and 12 in 2017. Clearly, the polio situation has gone totally out of control. Pakistan, along with Afghanistan and Nigeria, was one of those last countries where polio sill occurred, and where, if polio was eradicated, the disease would be eliminated from the world.
Perhaps the most dangerous sign is that one case in Mirpur Khas had been administered two doses of vaccine according to his Routine Immunisation Card and seven according to his parents, while the other had had ten doses. That indicates that the vaccine might not be working. In that case, the polio eradication may well be blown, not just for Pakistan, but for the whole world, because it might mean that the polio virus might have developed resistance to the polio vaccine. The alternative is that Pakistan has been supplied defective vaccines. That implies that those vaccinated with the defective batch would have to be re-vaccinated. Considering that the vaccinations might date back to the past, and the affected children may no longer be in the same place, the difficulties multiply. It may be noted that a polio case has only been very recently detected in Malaysia, again an indication that vaccines are not to be trusted.
Developing a new vaccine might not be easy, but it will need to be done if that is the problem. At the same time, the government has obviously not been giving the issue enough attention. That has to change if polio is to be eradicated from the country, and thus the world. There needs to be a thorough and transparent investigation and study into why 2019 has seen such a surge in polio cases in the country as compared to the past few years and what steps need to be taken in order to get the situation under control before it is too late. PM Imran Khan, speaking at a launching ceremony of the Nationwide Polio Eradication Campaign last week called the emergence of polio cases a ‘matter of shame for the country’. His strong words should now translate into formidable action that bears credible results.