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April 24, 2019

Anti-vaccination campaign


April 24, 2019

An attempt to sabotage the polio vaccination drive has been foiled in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa – but not without damage already being done. In the midst of the polio vaccination campaign in KP, around 40 schoolchildren from Mashokhel were brought to a hospital with complaints of diarrhoea, nausea and headache. Deliberate rumours were spread that the children were taken ill after having been administered polio drops. The news spread like wildfire as parents began to rush their children to hospitals. The original Basic Health Unit (BHU) in Mashokhel was set on fire. TV footage showed dozens of people storming the health centre. Later in the day, a video emerged of a man telling the children to fake illness. The Peshawar coordinator of the vaccination campaign confirmed that a number of parents who had refused to get their children vaccinated were amongst the protesters. It has become clear that this was a deliberate attempt to sabotage the polio vaccination campaign and put polio vaccinators and the entire health apparatus in the country at risk. Luck would have it that proof has emerged of how the situation was orchestrated – but one must wonder if the damage can be reversed.

The police have registered an FIR against a dozen suspects as well as arrested the man who appears as the chief protagonist. The government has promised that no one who was part of the conspiracy against the polio campaign will be spared. It is important that the government is serious about ensuring that the polio vaccination campaign is a success. For almost a decade, polio vaccinators have been at risk after numerous terrorist attacks on them during polio vaccination campaigns. More needs to be done by those at the helm of the state to allay fears that the polio vaccination is part of some grand conspiracy.

Doctors have confirmed that the students brought to hospitals on Tuesday were all fine; however, such rumours put the lives of thousands of children at risk and this is what the conspirators want to achieve. The government should do its best to publicize how this conspiracy was orchestrated so as to show parents that those who tell them not to vaccinate their children are essentially lying. While most people do not fall for such conspiracies, there are enough people willing to place the entire polio vaccination campaign at risk. Pakistan remains one of the few countries in the world that still has polio. It is conspiracy-mongers like these that are responsible.

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