The history of polio is as old as that of human society. In 1916, New York witnessed a severe outbreak of polio after which this disease became a pandemic. Two years later another pandemic, named the Spanish Flu, occurred. Due to this new development, polio wasn’t paid proper attention. Right from the start of the polio epidemic, 9000 cases were reported in America and 2343 of them resulted in deaths. On a global level, 27,000 cases surfaced—causing the deaths of almost 6000 children. According to the records of 1952, 57,628 cases were reported in America alone. Historically speaking, the disease of polio has existed for centuries. It can be described as the longest epidemic of the century.

The antiquity of this disease can be judged from the fact that research revealed some petroglyphs, belonging to the time period of 1430-1365 BC, in Polio patients. This proves that the disease has always been with us. Much like corona, Polio manifests through a difficulty in breathing due to which British scientists, Philip and Louie, introduced Iron Lung in 1928 which helped in breathing and later on, evolved into the modern ventilator. The first vaccine, developed in 1952 by Dr. Jonas Salk, helped greatly in controlling the disease. It was followed by an oral vaccine, created by Albert Sabin, which is still effective and used globally. After adopting the use of the oral vaccine in 1962, not a single case of Polio was reported in England after 1982. Not only this but after 1982, Polio was eradicated completely from England, America, Australia, Europe and 125 other countries. The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the American region in 1994, the Chinese region in 1997, and England along with the rest of Europe Polio free in 2002.

By 2013, the four countries that still suffered from Polio included India, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan but after 2015, both India and Nigeria exited the list. At present only Pakistan and Afghanistan are the two countries where Polio still exists and this is very alarming because as long as there is a single Polio patient in Pakistan, the coming generations can never have a bright future. There are many reasons as to why this deadly disease couldn’t be eradicated from Pakistan—a lack of knowledge and awareness amongst the general public is of paramount significance along with the bungling performance of different government institutions. Even the staff responsible for dispensing the vaccine isn’t trained enough to know how to protect and administer the required dosage properly.

Last year, 53 new Polio cases were reported. Since then 147 more cases have surfaced. This rising number of Polio cases is a warning bell for the days to come. If the situation persists, then Pakistan may have to face another emergency situation within the next decade. The Polio drive suffered badly due to months’ long lockdown during the corona pandemic. The government Pakistan has recently resumed this campaign, which is a step in the right direction, but there is a need to uproot the weaknesses of this drive, in order to wipe out this disease. To achieve this end goal, capable staff, which receives training twice a year, should be inducted. Moreover the government of Pakistan should run awareness campaigns about public health so that the doubts and misunderstandings in the minds of people regarding the side effects of the Polio vaccine could be laid to rest. The most significant in this regard is the issuance of an individual medical record book. This record should be mandatory for everyone but more so for children up to five years old so that if they visit any doctor in the country, he/she could check whether the child has been inoculated and could get a clearer picture of how to provide effective care. Furthermore, later on in the future, making use of modern technology, medical record apps that hold medical records of every child can be introduced. This can easily be accomplished with the help of NADRA. The paediatricians should be given complete access to this app so that whenever a child comes to their clinic or hospital, the doctor should be obligated to check the vaccination record of the child and then provide accurate information to the parents as well as the health department.

It is pertinent to mention here that aside from the government, helping eradicate Polio is our responsibility as well. The intelligentsia should propagate the importance of fighting Polio and creating awareness amongst the general public –especially those who reside in rural areas. This is so that the lethal disease can be eradicated from Pakistan once and for all.