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Pakistan anti-polio campaign misses over 16,000 children

Press Trust of India  |  Islamabad 

Over 16,000 children in could not be vaccinated aginst the polio virus due to their parents' resistance during the day-long national campaign against the crippling disease in Peshawar.

The government planned to vaccinate 34.16 million children as this year tally of already affected children has reached 171.

The polio campaign was reduced to just one day due to security reasons as in the past polio teams were attacked on the second or third day of the campaigns, an official requesting anonymity said.

"During the one-day campaign in Peshawar, 84 per cent children (635,378 out of 754,383) were vaccinated while 28,934 children were not available at their addresses. But the shocking thing was that 16,757 children could not be covered because their parents refused to vaccinate them," he said.

The National Manager Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) Dr Rana Safdar said data about the parents had been collected and these children would be vaccinated by involving influential personalities of the city, Dawn said.

"Out of the 97 union councils (UCs) in Peshawar, 45 have been declared high security risk areas. So only one-day campaign was launched there. However, there will be two catch-up days during which we will try to vaccinate the children which could not be covered," he said.

To further consolidate the efforts, secretary Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) Ayub Ahmed Sheikh inaugurated the control centre at the EPI building in Islamabad.

The centre is the initial form of the emergency operation cell (EOC) recommended by the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) which works on behalf of the international donor agencies.

Sheikh said 38.26 million doses of vaccine had been supplied to the provinces for the campaign.

The people in traditional northwestern region avoid anti polio vaccine due to fear of Taliban who consider polio medicine as a conspiracy by the West to sterile Muslims.

has already been facing travelling restrictions due to threat of polio virus exportation.

The government has announced emergency measures to tackle the disease but so far it has failed to turn the tide, as evident by the record number of new cases.

Peshawar remains the hub of polio virus and the insurgency by Taliban have badly impacted the efforts to vaccinate the children.

Polio is an endemic in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria.

First Published: Tue, September 30 2014. 12:35 IST