Thoughts by Bahadar Ali

April 25, 2016

Polio Vaccination: Panacea for the World, Curse in Pakistan!

Filed under: Political — bkhan @ 12:40 pm

There was another blow to the Polio vaccination campaign when six policemen were killed in the line of duty while guarding the health workers administering polio vaccine to the toddlers in Karachi. Appointing policemen to secure health workers, itself speaks volumes about the sorry state of affairs where Pakistani state stands today. A country that already can be spotted at the tail of all human welfare indexes, this is another unfortunate stigma that makes us feel further miserable among the rest of the world.

Our frenzied preoccupation with political upheavals of making or breaking of the governments and guessing the political futures of individuals and parties has blind sided us from the very basics of any human society make-ups. We are one of the isolated few where polio virus is still thriving, potentially exposing our future generations to be physically handicapped. And while the rest of the world has overcome this lethal illness long time ago, some elements of our society have hijacked the idea of very treatment of it. Instead to quarantine the virus, they choose to quarantine its cure, the polio vaccination. Their lopsided logic ( read craziness) termed this vaccine as another Western conspiracy against our next generation.Their twisted logic blames this vaccine for a reduced potential of human procreation in the children exposed to it. Totally disregarding the fact that we are already an over populous nation of 200 million and growing at geometric rate. Given few more decades and we are just short of becoming third largest population of the world. Both vaccinated and non-vaccinated are already contributing to it vigorously, so there should be no fear that it can make anyone impotent.

A lot can be blamed on the illiteracy in this regard and our governments chronicle apathy towards educating the general public about this and other vital issues. Simply appealing public through media announcements for co-operation with vaccinating campaigns or making some religious figure as the iconic-vanguard wouldn’t help. The religious fraternity is mostly culpable for spreading confusion in public as they are the first one, as always, where they found wrong with these polio drives too. They speak one thing in a public and other to their followers. The misguided bigots who are killing the poor foot-soldiers of these campaigns are inspired by the religious decrees from some of the clerics within our country. They forget, or at least nobody told them the fact that the very health workers are trying to save their kids from getting crippled. This should be the mission of everyone to educate the general public and wash away any misconception that prevail about the vaccination.
In a nutshell, a polio vaccine is nothing but a liquidized doze of dead polio virus. When the kids are administered this doze their natural immune system kicks into action and produces antibodies around the deactivated virus. This simple process achieves the objective and an immunity shield gets produced by the body. In future when these kids even if get exposed to actual polio virus strains, they remain safe because their body already had build immunity around this. Thus it saves a human being from getting permanently disabled in their life time. It is simply a proactive medical process. This simple message can be disseminated to the general public to dispel any mystery that shrouds this type of treatment. However, often it is observed that instead of addressing this root cause a statistical information barrage from various health organizations is released which essentially serves no purpose.
The situation stays alarming, when the rest of the world is zero polio zone long time now, according to WHO, the latest kid who has been paralyzed by Polio virus in Pakistan was on March 22, 2016. Thus another human life has been condemned to the misery only because of not enough persuasion to the general public and huge dissuasion against the Polio vaccination campaign. The level of compounding of ignorance and illiteracy touched its worst whereby in Muzaffar Garh in 2012 when a local cleric incited Jihad again the polio workers and that too through the loud speakers of the grand mosque of the town. This resulting in suspension of the campaign in the area. This case pertains to the ‘fully-governed’ Pakistan, rest we could imagine the situation in FATA and other semi-governed areas.
Instead of bulldozing polio campaign through media, the same energy and resources can be used in persuasion techniques by applying rational discourse. People need to be engaged by providing examples of worlds largest populations like India and China, where there is universal immunization but it didn’t impact their potential to grow populations or other Islamic countries especially Saudi Arabia etc. It seems an over emphasis but imagine the impact on Pakistan if it doesn’t stay polio free in the near future. We may be unable to quarantine the polio virus but rest of the world would quarantine us for sure.

Another sad aspect is the plight of poor polio workers who do their extremely hazardous job under tough weather conditions for a paltry payment. There have been more polio workers killed than the kids paralyzed with polio virus. A state cannot be expressed in more agonized way where even the basic health shield providers need their own security and divisions of police guard them and in the process get itself killed. It is high time for the state to revisit its priorities’ check-list. Bigotry is a hard phenomena to root out soon but any bigotry that is interfering with the delivery of basic health care should not be tolerated at all.

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