Although the year’s third nationwide polio campaign concluded with 97 percent reported coverage, parents of 46,967 children refused to get their children vaccinated. One can only wonder at the foolishness of these parents, who would rather believe in heresy, and risk crippling their children for life.

The Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) for polio has declared the Peshawar valley and FATA as “conveyer belt” of polio transmission, noting that this was possibly the last reservoir of wild poliovirus left in the world- the same area where there is blatant resistance by these 46,000 strong parents. According to data released by the National Emergency Operation Centre (EOC), the campaign, which started on March 14, targeted approximately 36.8 million children under the age of five across the country. Of the 83,332 refusals, 44 percent were covered after revisit and refusals reduced to 46,967 children.

We in Pakistan always claim to be proud of our close-knit families and community based societies, but the same communities allow such behaviour. Fixing the problem of wilful ignorance on the part of parents will have to come from communal support for the polio program. While a man or woman without income, or education is not fit to work, we all assume that they are fit to raise a child- the biggest responsibility a human can undertake. Parents take this responsibility for granted. It is their responsibility to protect their child, and these 46,967 parents have failed miserably. We can only blame illiteracy so much - even an illiterate person can make an effort to understand what a doctor is suggesting, or what a polio worker is recommending and why.

Refusing polio immunisation became a criminal offence last year, which has drastically brought down the rate of refusals. Parents tend to refuse immunisation for various reasons, including religious beliefs and socio-cultural attitudes. A family in Dera Ghazi Khan set their dog on a polio worker after refusing to have their children immunised against the crippling virus. Such people must be punished. Enough is enough.