HERE WE GO AGAIN-anti vaxers: Killings Hit Anti-Polio Drive in Pakistan
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‘People in our rural areas are increasingly suspicious of polio workers ever since Osama bin Laden’s killing and the revelations surrounding Dr Afridi,’ said Talath Naqvi, an activist for the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), an opposition party led by Imran Khan, the former cricket star. ‘But there is also a crisis of [Pakistani] leadership.’
According to the WHO, polio cases worldwide have fallen more than 99 per cent since 1988 from an estimated 350,000 cases in that year to 650 reported in 2011. However, the WHO says that failure to eradicate polio completely – as was achieved with smallpox – could lead again to a rapid spread of the disease and as many as 200,000 cases a year within a decade across the world.
Islamist militants of the Pakistani Taliban and other groups are active in both places. As in northern Nigeria, some Pakistani preachers have portrayed such vaccination campaigns as sinister western attempts to sterilise Muslims.
On the streets of Islamabad, however, opinions are divided even on the issue of polio vaccinations. Maula Daad, a hospital janitor, said: “There is an urgent need to deal with this problem. People who are opposing this campaign are just ignorant.” But Waseem Khan, an electrician, called it “an imported campaign which is meant to harm our coming generations”. He said: “I am convinced, children who get polio vaccines will become impotent.”