Monday May 27, 2024

Polio again

By Editorial Board
May 16, 2022

Pakistan has detected its third polio case of 2022. Once again, the case involving a one-year-old boy was discovered in North Waziristan, where parents have often been reluctant to vaccinate. The previous two cases, both discovered in April, had also been reported from North Waziristan. In 2021, Pakistan had reported only one case from Balochistan, raising hopes that the country could soon be polio free. At the moment, there are only two countries in the world endemic to polio – Pakistan and Afghanistan. Desperate efforts were launched after the polio surge in 2020, and the result was an encouraging reduction in polio rates in 2021. This year too it had been hoped that polio would not raise its ugly head again.

For Pakistan to officially be declared a polio-free country, it would need to go three consecutive years without a single case of polio. Despite all the progress that has been made, we are still far away from reaching that number. There are a number of reasons for that. Some still believe the militant propaganda that polio drops will sterilize their children and so do not welcome polio workers in their communities. Then, it has proven difficult to vaccinate children in remote parts of the country. Along with the administrative issues which have held back and affected vaccination even in some major cities, Pakistan needs to look into these factors and make every effort it can to remove polio from its midst. The progress has looked extremely good for the last 15 months until the latest cases were reported.

There has to be a change in tactics so that Pakistan can finally join the list of countries which are free of polio. The one thing that cannot be allowed in the battle against a disease as dangerous as polio is complacency. This will also require a cultural and political change, by which the voices of those who spread paranoia about vaccinations are drowned out by rationality. In this final push to eradicate polio, we may need to vaccinate fewer people than before but the ones left are those who will be most difficult to find and persuade. Yet just about every other country in the world has managed and there is no justification for Pakistan being left behind.