The Sindh government is planning to introduce legislation in the assembly to make polio vaccination mandatory of each and every child under the age of five, said Karachi Commissioner Aijaz Ahmed Khan.
Inaugurating the city’s first polio drive of 2018 in Chanesar Goth on Monday, Khan also urged prominent personalities, including popular sportspersons, to partner with the government to motivate parents to immunise their children against the crippling disease.
In last year’s drive, meant to vaccinate the province’s 8.4 million children below the age of five, as many as 172,000 parents refused to administer the oral polio vaccine (OPV) drops to their children. Of them, 129,000 refusal cases were from Karachi alone.
Two polio cases were reported from Karachi last year, shattering Pakistan’s and Sindh’s dream of becoming polio-free. Moreover, the crippling poliovirus was also found in sewage samples from three sites of the city, showing that despite the government giving billions of vaccine doses to children, some of them were still being left out of immunisation due to their parents’ refusal.
Vaccination refusals have become the most serious issue for the local and international authorities since despite using religious figures, community leaders and heads, showbiz personalities and other motivators to influence parents, the number of people declining to get their kids immunised is on the rise after each polio drive.
According to the Polio Eradication Initiative, the ongoing campaign began on January 22 and would continue till January 28. It would be conducted in all six districts and 18 towns of the city with the target to vaccinate approximately 2.4 million children aged less than five.
Around 12,000 teams will take part in the campaign and 5,000 police personnel will be providing security cover, PEI officials said, adding that paramilitary Rangers would also be on high alert to ensure safety of vaccinators.
“The total case count for polio in Pakistan in 2017 was eight, out of which two cases were from Karachi. This is a historical low for the country and the province,” Khan, the commissioner said on Monday.
He added that 306 cases were reported in the country in 2014, while 54 were reported in 2015, 20 in 2016 and eight in 2017. Commenting on the numbers from Sindh, an official of the PEI said in 2014 some 30 case were reported from the province, followed by 12 in 2015, eight in 2016 and just two last year, showing that the process of polio eradication was moving in the right direction.