Pakistan’s Polio Epidemic Extended By Parent Skepticism

Poliovirus cases in Pakistan include wild poliovirus type 1 WPV1 and circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 cVDPV2
pakistani children running
Asia (Vax Before Travel)

According to various news reports, over 1 million parents in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) region failed to protect their children against the poliovirus during 2019.

Reported by Express-News on December 22, 2019, data from the provincial health department showed a total of 1,089,087 parents have refused polio vaccination for their children.

Most of these parents end up refusing the polio vaccine due to the negative news in various types of media.

This is unfortunate news since Pakistan is currently being affected by both wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1) and circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 (cVDPV2).

Already in 2019, there have been 111 polio cases confirmed in Pakistani children by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI). Of these polio cases, 79 are from K-P.

Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is located in the area previously known as the North-West Frontier Province and has about 35 million residents. 

‘Negative propaganda against the polio vaccine had a significant impact in K-P. The doubts created by false propaganda dealt a serious blow to anti-polio efforts this year,’ reported Express-News.

According to polio vaccine experts at the GPEI, polio is a crippling and potentially deadly disease that affects the nervous system. Because the virus lives in the feces of an infected person, people infected with the disease can spread it to others when after defecating. 

The challenges against eradicating this viral illness have been compounded due to loopholes in the campaign, lack of training, and false vaccine effectiveness rumors.

In April 2019, rumors spread on social media that Pakistani children were being poisoned by the vaccinations.

As a result, new polio cases continued to surface from the south and eastern districts of K-P all through the year, with the situation being particularly bleak in the tribal areas, where displaced families, routinely refuse to cooperate with vaccinators.

People can also be infected with polio if they drink water or eat food contaminated with infected feces.

A recent study reported about 45 percent of environmental sites tested in Pakistan were found positive for WPV1 in 2019.

The good news is Pakistan has recently made significant progress.

According to the GPEI report published on November 14, 2019, Pakistan has vaccinated about 6 million children this year.

However, the country of Pakistan is confronted with additional disease outbreaks in 2019.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued various alerts, such as the following:

  • Dengue in Asia and the Pacific Islands - December 04, 2019 - Dengue is a risk in many parts of Asia and the Pacific Islands. Some countries are reporting increased numbers of cases of the disease. Travelers to Asia and the Pacific Islands can protect themselves by preventing mosquito bites.
  • XDR Typhoid Fever in Pakistan - September 30, 2019 - There is an ongoing outbreak of extensively drug-resistant (XDR) typhoid fever in Pakistan. Extensively drug-resistant infections do not respond to most antibiotics.
  • Global Measles Outbreak Notice - June 10, 2019 - Measles virus outbreaks are occurring around the world. Before you travel internationally, regardless of where you are going, make sure you are protected fully against measles.

The CDC said on November 5, 2019, ‘check the vaccines and medicines list and visit your doctor at least 1 month before departure.’

‘Ask your healthcare provider what vaccines and medicines you need based on where you are going in Pakistan, how long you are staying, what you will be doing, and if you are traveling from a country other than the USA.’

In the USA, there are various polio vaccines available, such as Kinrix and Pediarix. 

Once vaccinated, your healthcare should provide you with an International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis yellow card. This will serve as your official documentation of polio vaccination.

Additionally, the CDC suggests using this Healthy Travel Packing List for Pakistan for health-related suggested items to consider for your trip.

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Pakistan travel vaccine news published by Vax-Before-Travel.



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Article by
Dani Reiter