Two new polio cases have been confirmed in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Bannu and two in Balochistan’s Qilla Abdullah, taking the nation’s tally to 41 cases so far this year.
According to officials, the affected were a one-year-old girl and a two-and-a-half-year-old boy in Bannu.
The girl, from Wazir’s Khwajadar Khel, was diagnosed as a case of acute flaccid paralysis (AFP)—the gold standard for polio surveillance— at the Women and Children Hospital Bannu on June 26. According to the parents, she was not routinely immunised.
The boy, from Fatehkhakhel, was also diagnosed with AFP at the Women and Children Hospital on June 22. The child’s history showed that his parents also refused to get him immunised against polio.
According to one estimate, more than 25,000 parents in Bannu have refused to immunise their children. The district had already been declared dangerous for the polio virus and more cases are expected to emerge in the future.
In Balochistan, a nine-month-old boy from Qilla Abdullah fell victim to the disease. Civil Hospital Quetta declared him a polio case on June 22. Records show that the child was not routinely immunised and was the second “zero dose” case from the district this year.
Another eight-month-old boy was reported to have contracted polio in Jaffarabad.
Talking to SAMAA TV, Babar bin Atta, the prime minister’s focal person on polio eradication, said that these cases are emerging because of parents’ refusal to immunise their children due to misconceptions about the vaccine.
“The records in Bannu used to show that 800 parents have refused vaccinations. But when we decided that we would not use police or force, this number jumped from 800 to 18,300.”
While announcing an anti-polio campaign in KP earlier this month, Atta had said that any parents refusing vaccinations for their children would not be punished.
He also added that local officials report false immunisation statistics to the federal government, which further added to the misinformation.