The previous years have shown significant progress when it comes to dealing with polio in Pakistan. Polio or poliomyelitis is caused by a highly contagious virus. It attacks the nervous system, thereby infecting one’s brain and spinal cord. It can lead to paralysis in one or more parts of the body. Research shows that Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only two countries in the entire world where polio still exists. However, it is gradually decreasing here as well. Let us look at the developments in eliminating polio from Pakistan over the last 5 years.
Developments and Progress
If we take a look at where we stood in 2011, there has been some significant progress up till now. A whooping 198WPV cases in 2011 came down to 58 in just one year. Later, 2013 saw a rise in polio cases yet again. However, the past year of 2016 showed the most promising results, decreasing the number of polio cases to20 in the entire year. These results show that Pakistan has seen an 82% decrease in polio cases in the last two years. Initially, there were 306 cases in 44 districts in 2014 which have come down to 54 cases in 23 districts in 2015. Furthermore, the numbers lessened in May 2016 by 64%. Therefore, there is a significant progress with the hope of eradicating the disease completely from the country.
Efforts Made Towards Elimination
The best way to cure this disease is by regulating and necessitating polio vaccinations. Oral polio vaccine (OPV) and Inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) are two ways of immunizing children. These are provided privately in clinics as well as publicly by organizations on the doorsteps of those who have children. Public immunization is provided largely by the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) whereby, lady health visitors immunize the children. The success of eradication can be credited mostly to Routine Immunization Activities (RIAs) and Supplementary Immunization Activities (SIAs). The EPI programme benefits around 5.8 million children in Pakistan every year.
Setbacks and Difficulties
Eradicating polio, or any disease in Pakistan, is not as easy to instigate as it should be. The war against terrorism has left several areas of FATA and KPK inaccessible and dangerous for polio workers. The children here are unable to get immunized, which is why they remain susceptible to the disease. Furthermore, polio front-line workers continue to be soft targets for fanatic groups. 40 polio vaccinators have lost their lives since 2012. Misguided religious conservatism is also a major cause of these events. Conservatives have reasons to believe that polio vaccines contradict religious beliefs. Additionally, healthcare is hardly given any importance by the government, and the facilities still lack adequate resources and medical equipment. Moreover, parental perception regarding polio is fueled by illiteracy and lack of awareness. Parents remain suspicious regarding what vaccines entail.
Possibilities and Solutions
Raising awareness is key to make parents understand the dangers that polio poses and what it means to get a child vaccinated. Other than parents, religious scholars should also be made to view vaccinations with an open mind. Furthermore, the religious leaders and preachers who do understand these repercussions need to speak up in favor of them so that more parents can become educated. Inaccessible areas should be made accessible through telehealth and mobile health. Most importantly, strong surveillance and security measures must be taken to ensure the safety of front-line polio workers so that the numbers stop decreasing.
In conclusion, the prospects of ending polio seem to raise some hope. If more social activists come together to raise awareness about polio, workers may feel a lot more secure in carrying out immunizations. Strategies that comply with culturally appropriate ethical principles may lead to creative solutions to end polio once and for all.
Moreover, if you have any concerns or questions regarding the Polio Vaccination, do not hesitate to book an appointment with a doctor and get your doubts cleared.