Pakistan’s anti-polio campaign eats up funds, not virus

October 2nd, 2008 - 11:36 am ICT by IANS  

Islamabad, Oct 2 (IANS) Despite a polio vaccination campaign that has been going on for 14 years, authorities in Pakistan have failed to control the polio virus. Eleven new cases have been reported in the last two months.The vaccination campaign to eradicate the virus from Pakistan started in 1994. So far, there have been over 60 rounds nationwide of administering the oral vaccine to children below five.

“Polio is still not finished in Pakistan and if you look at statistics there is no difference in the number of cases between the early 90s and now,” Farooq Hassan, a child specialist who had been involved in the campaign, told IANS.

Discussions with officials at the health ministry, World Health Organisation (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Fund suggest that this is because of the poor campaign methodology and non-cooperation of successive Pakistani governments.

No one is ready to say when the campaign will end.

A WHO official who declined to be identified said at present about 50 international polio experts are involved in the campaign in Pakistan. Some of them have been involved since 1994.

“Neither these international experts nor officials in Pakistan want an end to the campaign as it involves a huge amount (of money),” the official told IANS. On an average, 80,000 field workers are involved in each polio vaccination round, during which teams move from house to house to administer polio drops to children.

The health experts are of the opinion that the polio campaign in Pakistan has eaten up a major portion of the funds and attention meant for overall immunization of newborns, which has resulted in the spread of other diseases.

“Continous support to polio rather than routine immunization has resulted in spread of deadly diseases in certain areas,” said Hassan.

The health experts estimate that an average child born between 1994 and 2003 has received the oral polio drops 30 times. Doctors say it should be given only twice or thrice.

Though the medical experts involved in the campaign say an overdose of polio vaccine makes no difference, some paediatricians point out that even excess food can be harmful.

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