Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Lengths to Which Pakistan Will Go in the Fight Against Polio

Over 500 parents were recently arrested by the Pakistani police due to the fact that they had refused to allow their children to get vaccinated against polio (this occurred in the Khyber Paktunkhwa province). This happened on March 2, at the beginning of a three day regional vaccination campaign. While it is the first time that authorities have resorted to such extreme measures, there has been a fair amount of local resistance to the eradication efforts set forth by the government.

Pakistan, along with Nigeria and Afghanistan, are the three remaining countries in the world in which Polio remains endemic. They are under pressure to eradicate the disease, especially after the World Health Organization recommended restrictions in 2014 for Pakistanis travelling abroad in an effort to decrease the spread of the disease internationally. The Health Minister of Pakistan, Saira Afzal Tarar has mentioned that the government now has a zero tolerance policy with regards to refusing vaccination. While Pakistan reported a national emergency for polio in 2011, there was an increase of over 100 cases in the total count in 2014 (306 cases), the highest since 2001 (which saw 199 cases).

Reasons for resistance against the disease include the fact that there have been allegations by extremists that vaccination campaigns are used by the United States as a base for underground operations; others believe that vaccinations are a tactic used to sterilize Muslims by the West. Other factors that play a role other than the militants are weaknesses in terms of accountability and management in areas where polio cases are high.

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-Meche Peterson

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