ISLAMABAD: Issues regarding the ongoing fight against poliovirus were discussed at a seminar on Wednesday, where misconceptions regarding vaccination drives were addressed by state health minister Saira Afzal Tarar.
The minister said anti-polio campaigns were significantly funded and managed by the government and not the US or international organisations such as the World Health Organization (WHO).
She was speaking at an awareness seminar on polio eradication organised by the Express Media Group. Over 150 religious clerics attended the event.
The minister said health services and vaccination schemes were seriously affected after the Shakeel Afridi case. “The health ministry has also communicated its concerns to international and local security agencies to keep their activities away from polio teams,” she said.
Criticising the government’s failure in eradicating polio, Dr Muhammad Haroon from Pakistan Young Pharmacist Association said whenever the government is questioned about its performance, it resorts to excuses such as cold chain supply mechanism or the security situation in conflict zones.
“If Afghanistan can exhibit better performance, why can’t we? Our progress highlights incompetency at a government level,” Haroon said.
The Prime Minister’s focal person for polio, Senator Ayesha Farooq, said though the polio programme in the country has been through many ups and downs, the country has seen an 80 per cent drop in polio cases compared to the previous year.
Dr Zubair Mufti, WHO polio team leader, said while the 38 cases reported in the country this year were significantly lower than last year’s cases, they still contributed significantly to the global count of 58.
Mufti said the world is very close to eradicating this disease. “Pakistan is planning to conduct nine campaigns from September, two of these have already been implemented,” he said.
Senate Deputy Chairman Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri said many areas in Balochistan remain without vaccination coverage.
“According to a survey, 2.45 million children have not been administered polio drops,” he said, adding that the issue was less a religious one, and more a matter of ineffective coverage at a provincial level.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 22nd, 2015.