Prime Minister Imran Khan will himself spearhead the war on polio from November after a recent rise in registered cases in the country, mainly in parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where resistance against the vaccinations runs high among parents due to unfounded religious and cultural beliefs. The prime minister has rightly told federal and provincial governments to launch result-oriented awareness and immunisation campaigns. Babar Bin Atta, prime minister’s focal person on eradication of polio, has shared with the PM and some foreign delegates the concerns of the International Monitoring Board about gaps in Pakistan’s vaccination strategy. Apart from such loopholes, the main culprit frustrating efforts to make Pakistan polio-free is propaganda against the vaccination among parents. The main source of propaganda is social media.
It is an encouraging sign that the prime minister himself will work as the ambassador of the polio campaign. Equally worth mentioning are the efforts of Babar Bin Atta who has been using social media platforms to counter the propaganda. Recently, we have seen a series of touching and effective messages going on air (in the form of ads) on mainstream electronic media about the importance of anti-polio vaccines.
Meanwhile, Nigeria has just celebrated three years without any polio cases, which means the African country is officially a polio-free state, leaving behind Afghanistan and Pakistan. Of these two countries, it is very likely that Afghanistan will beat Pakistan in the polio war as in 2019, Pakistan has seen 53 cases so far and Afghanistan 12.
The Bannu region is becoming the hotspot of polio vaccination resistance. Recently, a leader of a traders’ body at a convention announced that they would boycott the vaccination drive if the government did not withdraw certain taxes. Over the years, polio drives have been used as a political tool. The militants of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan killed scores of polio workers only for their political and strategic gains. A polio-infested Pakistan serves their agenda of an internationally isolated country. Adding fuel to fire, a section of local influencers also tried to fan disinformation about polio campaigns. Several parents, under the influence of the propaganda, marked the fingers of their children themselves to avoid vaccination.
The whole nation should stand by the prime minister in the war on polio.