Pakistan takes cue from India to eradicate polio from its soil

Pakistan is taking oral vaccination tips from India, which has been polio-free for over two years, and wants to replicate its success story, the head of the neighbouring country’s polio programme says.

“But what hinders Pakistan in containing the dreaded virus is insurgency, violence and illiteracy,” Pakistan National Polio Plus Committee chairman Aziz Memon said during a visit here.

Militant attack

Earlier this week, Pakistan’s polio campaign suffered a major setback when a volunteer in the vaccination campaign was killed and her colleague wounded in a militant attack near Peshawar.

The attack came soon after the nationwide polio campaign started on May 28.
“We are taking lessons from India. Our teams visited Bihar and Uttar Pradesh to see the way they vaccinated children,” Memon said. Both UP and Bihar were the hotbed of the paralytic disease in India.

Some members of the Muslim community in the two states resisted polio drops as they feared that it may make their children impotent.

After 741 polio cases surfaced in 2009, India started using bivalent vaccines (targeting polio 1 and polio 3 viruses) in its national vaccination programme from 2010 January.
This showed dramatic effects and India moved out of WHO’s list of endemic countries in 2011.

“We picked up many tips. We learned how to involve hundreds of volunteers in the campaign, how to handle the resource centre and how to immunise children at transit checkpoints,” he said.

Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria are the only three countries in the world where polio still remains endemic.

Out of bounds

He said in some areas in Pakistan they have been able to vaccinate children, but some areas still remain out of bounds due to various reasons, including violence. “The situation of our polio programme is good. One of the main reserves of polio is the Gadap Town slum area in Karachi. Now, it is very much in control there,” he said.

“The area around Peshawar is another focus. Insurgency and law and order are the problems there,” he added.

While the Taliban in Afghanistan recently announced its support for polio vaccination, the Pakistani Taliban continues to oppose this.

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