Forty-six per cent of the 600 respondents participating in a baseline Knowledge, Attitude and Practices (KAP) study commissioned by Unicef in January 2012, are ignorant about vaccination being a way to prevent polio, while only one in three parents is concerned that their child is at risk of contracting polio this year, states a report based on the survey’s key findings.
Lack of such basic knowledge about the prevention of a disease that causes lifelong disability comes as shock, and offers a compelling base for advancement of communication and social mobilisation interventions by Pakistan’s partners in the fight against polio.
The purpose of the research was to measure the risk perception of the community in relation to poliovirus; knowledge about polio and its campaigns; perceptions about vaccine attributes; communication channels and influencers; practices and community behaviour; and community perceptions about the polio programme and its vaccination teams.
The research found that 97% of respondents had heard the term ‘polio,’ 87% categorised polio as a disease and only 55% knew vaccination was a way to prevent the disease. With regard to the perception of severity of the disease, the data show that a majority of respondents associate polio with physical disability.
The reports further highlights that only one parent out of three is concerned that their child is at risk of contracting polio this year, with susceptibility to the virus highest in Balochistan, where 59% of the respondents noted their concern. “Although several parents have heard the misinformation that oral polio vaccine (OPV) may have some problems leading to infertility and paralysis, the majority believes it is safe,” it says.
Similarly, when exploring reasons for refusals, it is evident that the misconception that OPV may cause infertility or sterility tops the list among reasons given by refusal families. However, upon deeper analysis, refusal to vaccinate was found to be a relatively minor issue, as 91% of the respondents noted that they have never refused vaccination.
With respect to the most commonly noted source of information for finding out about the last polio campaign, vaccinators were said to be the most important means of communicating this information in Sindh and radio announcements were the most common in Fata. Moreover, 59%, 33% and 41% of respondents respectively in Sindh, Fata and Balochistan find polio teams helpful, while 7%, 25% and 3% respectively find them too young.
The research used both quantitative and qualitative tools and covered 29 high-risk districts and all 230 communication-based high-risk Union Councils in those districts. The survey was representative at the district level and drew a sample of approximately 600 respondents, including both fathers and mothers. It utilised a combination of focus group discussions and in-depth interviews with community leaders, parents and influencers.