70 Polio Cases Detected in Pakistan as Immunization Drive Hits Roadblocks

by Gopalan on Oct 10 2008 11:20 AM

As the immunization drive in Pakistan hits numerous roadblocks, especially in the form of conservative opposition, at least 70 polio cases have been detected this year so far.

A study conducted by the Polio Eradication Initiative (PEI) suggests that 10 children of the 70 escaped supplementary doses by the immunisation teams and 38 of them were never exposed to the routine immunisation. Polio cases in the country had stood at 32 in 2007 and 40 in 2006.

High-risk areas where children never received routine polio immunisation are: Mirpurkhas, Sanghar and Khairpur in Sindh; Bajaur, Nowshera and Swat in the NWFP and Pishin, Killa Abdullah and Ziarat in Balochistan.

Four cases have been reported from Islamabad.

A source privy to the report told Dawn that in most of the cases, poor sanitation and lack of access to clean drinking water were the major factors in the transmission of poliomyelitis.

Diarrhoea was another reason – for it affects the resistance power at the time of the administration of oral polio vaccine.

Besides, politically affiliated district health managers were blamed for a sharp deterioration in the quality of the immunisation campaign in some areas of Balochistan, the NWFP and Sindh.

No punitive action was taken against officials even where their dismal record for over a decade had wrought havoc.

Four cases were reported from Mardan (NWFP), mainly due to lack of interest shown by the Executive District Officer (EDO), considered very influential because of his connections in the right places.

Only in the Sindh province, seven EDOs were shown the door a couple of months ago for creating hurdles, a top official told the Dawn newspaper.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey 2006-07 indicated that approximately 5.1 million children were given immunisation services every year.

The survey conducted by the National Institute of Population Studies Pakistan and Macro International Inc. USA, said girls were less likely than boys to have been fully immunised against six preventable childhood diseases – while 50 per cent of the boys were vaccinated, it was only 44 per cent in the case of the girls.

Again, children in urban areas are more likely than rural children to have completed the vaccination schedule (54 per cent and 44 per cent, respectively).

Immunisation coverage varies substantially across provinces. Provinces with the highest coverage are Punjab (53 per cent); the NWFP (47 per cent); Sindh (37 per cent) and Balochistan (35 per cent) have considerably lower levels of full immunisation coverage.