Officials suspended for ‘detecting polio cases’

October 05, 2008
By Amer Malik

LAHORE

THE fate of 117 School Health and Nutrition Supervisors, Sargodha district, hangs in the balance as Health Department suspended them after one year of their service on basis of not filling recruitment rules.

However, the affected officials alleged that they had been penalised for detecting polio cases during their health and nutrition campaign in schools in Sargodha district. The issue has raised warning that polio cases in Punjab may have been under-reported to hide failure to control the alarming spread of polio virus in Punjab this year….

They further said that they had been made a scapegoat for detecting some polio cases in schools in Sargodha, which caused their own suspension. “The District Health Department, Sargodha, had warned us against making polio cases public, which ultimately became reason of their suspension,” they added.

The medical experts and officials of Health Department that Punjab’s health authorities were facing a challenge to control the spread of polio virus, which had emerged like an epidemic in different districts of Punjab during this year. Presently, there are 16 reported polio cases in Punjab out of total of 65 cases across Pakistan. Out of total of 65 polio cases, 50 cases are of P-I strain of polio and 15 cases of P-III strain of polio virus. All 16 cases in Punjab are detected as attacked with P-I strain of polio virus.

However, medical experts and officials of Health Department said there might have been many more cases of polio as against moderately reported 16 cases in Punjab, as reporting of greater number of polio cases reflected failure of Health Department’s anti-polio drives through low coverage of immunization of each and every child below five years of age or raised questions about the substandard or expired vaccines being used during the vaccination campaigns under Expanded Programme of Immunization or special three-day anti-polio campaigns under National Immunization Days (NIDs). “It has prompted health authorities to under-report polio cases to conceal their own failure to control the spread of crippling polio disease among the children in the province,” they added….

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And…

Anti-U.S. views fuel polio growth in Pakistan  

To date, Farah is the lone case of polio in this city of 10 million inhabitants. But health officials fear the polio virus is re-emerging across Pakistan. It is especially serious, they say, in the lawless tribal North West Frontier Province along the border with Afghanistan where the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban rule and many families have refused vaccinations on religious grounds…

In 2007, the World Health Organization recorded 32 cases of polio in Pakistan, up from 28 in 2005. Between January and August, 31 more cases have been recorded, with one-third in the tribal areas.

Since a door-to-door immunization program began in 2001, tens of millions of children have been vaccinated or given polio drops, according to health authorities. But in tribal areas, radical Islamic clerics such as Maulana Fazlullah have convinced residents that U.S.-manufactured polio drops are designed to sterilize Pakistanis and reduce the Muslim population.

Health authorities say polio vaccines used in Pakistan are produced in WHO-accredited laboratories not only in the United States but in Japan, Belgium and India. Pakistan has no such laboratory.

Kahn says recent air strikes in tribal areas have also contributed to residents refusing to allow vaccinations for their children. Since Aug. 13, there have been at least seven reported U.S. missile strikes, as well as a ground force operation, in tribal territories.

“Due to the security situation in these areas there is a lot of resentment against America,” said Kahn. “The perception that this vaccine is a U.S. product holds strong in these areas, leading to refusals” to accept vaccinations.

Khan also noted that Fazlullah’s sermons have stressed that those who become crippled or die from polio are martyrs. The vaccine is considered haram, or that which is forbidden for Muslims.

“There are other diseases also – like hepatitis, typhoid, etc. Why is everyone concentrating on polio?” asked Kahn. “See, this is an American conspiracy.”…

Khilji says that aside from conspiracy theories, religious beliefs can also play a role in keeping children from being vaccinated. “Some parents say it’s un-Islamic to vaccinate their children because it’s akin to tampering with the will of Allah,” said Wahaeed Khan, a former EPI official…

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I think their views and feelings are justified. Who is to say vaccines aren’t contaminated? In fact, we know right here in the U.S. and Canada it happens. Air strikes? What type of toxins and pollutants are being distributed in their region which could lead to higher polio cases?  Religious beliefs are always valid and should be upheld.

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