After an alarming increase in cases last week, Pakistan’s polio eradication programme is in disarray. In the North Waziristan district, on the Afghan border, eight cases of polio have been documented in youngsters in the last month. It’s the first time in almost a year that there have been any cases.
Officials suspect that this new outbreak is the result of parents falsely labelling themselves and their children as vaccinated, and the government has initiated an investigation.
North Waziristan, a former Taliban stronghold in northwestern Pakistan, is suspected to be the source of the new infections due to high vaccine refusal rates.
“Fake markings and refusals are two key reasons in the recent outbreak, with polio staff conspiring with parents to miss the vaccination,” said an official at Pakistan’s polio eradication programme, referring to how parents suspicious of immunisation have got hold of special pens used by health workers to mark vaccinated children’s fingers.
“The cases are underlining exactly where the obstacles lie,” said Dr. Shahzad Baig, national programme coordinator. “We are doing everything we can to guarantee that the virus remains contained and that we battle it to the end.”
Prior to this outbreak, the last case of polio-related paralysis in a kid was reported in January of last year.