Officials waver over new date for anti-polio drive
KARACHI, Feb 4: Resumption of an anti-polio campaign, which was set to begin on Feb 4 and later put off indefinitely, remained uncertain on Monday as the health and security authorities were in a fix on setting a new date for immunisation in view of the city’s deteriorating law and order situation.
Sources privy to the discussion held at a meeting of health and security officials said the two institutions were undecided on resuming the campaign on Feb 6, which was earlier considered as tentative date to resume the activity.“There has been no new date yet,” said a source citing the outcome of Monday’s meeting attended by senior officials from the Sindh health and home miniseries. “The meeting reviewed the progress and also discussed vulnerable city districts in the wake of the December 2012 attacks on anti-polio vaccinators. There was no certain line from the provincial security administration, which caused the officials to keep the campaign on hold for the time being.”
The government last week decided to indefinitely put off the anti-polio campaign set to begin on Feb 4 in view of the city’s deteriorating law and order situation. However, the health ministry announced that it would decide a future course of action on Monday after the minister had announced that the anti-polio drive would be conducted in the presence of Rangers.
The campaign according to the health ministry plan would be carried out in those high-risk union councils where a vaccination drive had to be called off in December last year. Several anti-polio workers were shot dead in Karachi in December while many others were targeted in other parts of the country after which the vaccination campaign was suspended across the country. It was partially resumed in the city last month, but not in the areas where vaccinators were attacked.
Monday’s meeting also agreed on partial resumption of the vaccination drive after the first polio case in the country was detected in the city last week. The victim was a two-year-old boy, a resident of Bin Qasim Town’s Bhains Colony.
“In the wake of that case, the meeting decided to resume polio vaccination in four union councils of Bin Qasim Town,” said the source. “In that area-specific campaign a total of 58,289 children aged below five would be vaccinated. Originally the campaign was planned for 97 UCs of 14 towns that had to cover more than a million children. No decision on it has been taken yet.”
This year’s first case of polio in the country was detected in a two-year-old boy, Musharraf, son of Usman, on Friday last. The child had never been vaccinated. This was the first polio case in the city after one and a half years. The officials said the boy’s family had misconceptions about polio vaccination and had repeatedly been recorded as a ‘refusal’ in anti-polio campaigns, the regular vaccination drives as well as special anti-polio campaigns.
“The officials decided to meet again on Feb 11 to plan a vaccination campaign. It would also take input from the law-enforcement agencies before fixing a next date,” said the source. “Apart from security concerns, some political reasons were also cited at the meeting, which suggested appointment of different officials in different districts.”