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Saturday April 20, 2024

Polio control

Polio has no cure, and only chance that people have for keeping their children protected against virus is regular vaccination

By Editorial Board
March 04, 2024
A health worker administers polio drops to a child during a door-to-door vaccination campaign in Karachi on August 7, 2023. — AFP
A health worker administers polio drops to a child during a door-to-door vaccination campaign in Karachi on August 7, 2023. — AFP

Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria are three countries in the world where the polio virus is still present. Successive governments have taken effective measures to tackle the problem, but Pakistan has yet to eradicate the virus from its soil fully. According to a report published last week, the National Institute of Health (NIH) in Islamabad has confirmed the deduction of Type-1 Wild Poliovirus in three environmental samples collected from Peshawar, Multan and Karachi. Polio has no cure, and the only chance that people have for keeping their children protected against the virus is regular vaccination. In Pakistan, though authorities carry out immunization campaigns regularly, many children miss out due to their parents. Myths surrounding such campaigns have had a negative impact on most people who fear that the administration of these vaccines will have some irreversible side effects. Some believe in senseless conspiracy theories, forming a strong opinion against these vital vaccines that can keep children safe from life-long disabilities. Safety precautions that should be taken to protect against the virus are usually ignored. Our immunization campaigns – dedicated and relentless though they are – will not yield the desired results unless they work on other areas that require their attention.

Most parts of the country lack access to clean water; NGOs and several political movements have done more than what they should be expected to do to resolve the water crisis, but the problem requires large-scale planning. In Karachi alone, areas like Orangi Town remain without water for days. People ration water for daily use, which means that most children and adults do not have the luxury of washing their hands before consuming food or drinking water, in case they unintentionally touch contaminated surfaces. Right now, authorities are more focused on immunization campaigns – and rightly so – but they should also be looking at other factors that result in the spread of the virus.

The other important step for the government is to coordinate with Afghanistan, the other country in South Asia where the polio virus is still an epidemic. Joint efforts between the countries can help the two states set up screening counters for people to and from the countries. Vaccination counters at these spots can also help contain the spread of the virus. In 2020, the world saw how only collective efforts can help tackle stubborn viruses. Millions of children in the two countries are at risk of contracting the virus if proper steps are not taken on time. Pakistan has a long way to go. The continuous detection of the virus means that more steps are required to eradicate this disease from Pakistani soil. Now that all provinces have appointed their chief ministers, it is time for them to share a coherent plan to contain the spread of the virus in every corner of the country.