According to data jointly released by polio partners, the number of refusing families has declined from 80,330 during the first national polio round held in January 2012 to 45,122 in October 2012, implying thereby that 35,208 families that had previously refused polio immunisation for their children have now been covered.
As against 34,966 families refusing polio drops in KPK during the January 2012 polio round, only 15,663 families in KPK refused polio drops during the October polio campaign. Similarly the number of refusals in Punjab declined from 6,233 in January to 1,702 in October. Balochistan, Sindh and FATA also recorded a sharp decline in the number of refusing families where 10,100, 17,100 and 455 children were missed the October polio round against 12,813, 23,244 and 3014 children missed due to refusals during January.
Pakistan has reported a total of 47 polio cases during the current year as against 113 cases during the corresponding period last year.
The success achieved notwithstanding, every unvaccinated child constitutes a major challenge.
“It is a cause of grave concern that polio teams across the country have still missed 4,84,344 children during the last polio round,” stated the Senior Coordinator for Polio Eradication at the WHO, Dr. Elias Durry, and expressed concern over polio teams persistently missing the same children that have remained unvaccinated for the last many campaigns.
According to Dr. Durry, the biggest hurdle that prevents Pakistan from attaining polio-free status is the number of children who are persistently being missed during the polio campaigns.
“It took countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran very few rounds to eradicate polio because their secret ingredient was the ability to vaccine each and every child,” he said, further quoting the example of Iran, which achieved polio-free status after conducting only four national door-to-door polio campaigns.
“Where officials and polio teams across the country deserve due credit and appreciation for converting families that previously refused polio drops, we need to take adequate steps to ensure that the number of children missed for reasons other than refusals is also brought down,” Special Assistant to the Prime Minster Shahnaz Wazir Ali stated while praising polio team members.
Commenting on the final results of the polio campaign, UNICEF’s Chief of Polio Dennis King is of the view that work is to be done before Pakistan stands in the proud row of polio free nations. “There is still work to be done on remaining refusals and especially on those kids who are consistently missed and have never been reached by vaccinators.