An atmosphere of misunderstanding has been created again in the fight against polio. A private doctor in Rawalpindi has advised patients against getting their children vaccinated from government polio vaccinators. While this is assumed to be a move to make more parents come to private hospitals, it can easily be misinterpreted as an educated doctor advocating a boycott of government services - services without which polio would be a much bigger problem than it is today.

Pakistan is one of the last countries in the world where poliovirus is still prevalent, despite the availability of vaccines and the negligence of parents and doctors is unforgivable. Today we are talking about educated people who are now refusing polio vaccination. Many on inquiry respond that their children are already administered but fail to produce a vaccination certificate, which is necessary to avoid arrest.

While private hospitals play a great role in helping people, they must not discourage people from using government sources, especially when it comes to something as essential as polio drops. The government’s polio eradication program is reliable, and deserves encouragement.

Insufficient knowledge on a parent’s part adds to the problems. Data shows that 1 in 10 parents easily fall prey to rumors about polio vaccination. The misinformation includes it not being halal, it being a western propaganda to sterilise Pakistani children, and it causing AIDS - all baseless lies. Some also believe that polio is not a serious disease and the paralysis it causes can be cured. When faced with such advice, parents have to get a second opinion or read up about latest research, especially if they themselves are educated and have the resources to do so.

According to a report issued by the polio programme in March 2016, parents of 46,967 children refused to vaccinate their children across the country - and by law, these parents are criminals. Even one child with polio in Pakistan has the disease only due to criminal negligence - there is no other reason.