Pakistan is one of the three countries in the world (along with Afghanistan and Nigeria) where the polio virus is still present. If you look at the statistics from two years ago, you will realise how widespread the problem was. In 2013, 93 children were paralysed as a result of the virus. The number rose to 306 in 2014. And in 2015, 25 children were paralysed as a result. Before the introduction of the polio eradication programme, the situation in Pakistan was very dismal. In the last 24 months, due to global pressure, Pakistan was pushed to introduce a rigorous polio eradication programme.

In 2016, only 20 cases of polio were reported. The biggest success by far is that only 2 cases were reported in the last year. Campaigns are designed every now and then to make people more aware about the benefits of getting their children vaccinated. Authorities do face problems when it comes to convincing people that vaccination is the right way to go about dealing with the epidemic. And it is not just limited to those not exposed to any information about it. The trend is also prevalent in educated people, who have access to all the information in the world. Private practitioners also convince parents to not trust the vaccines provided by the government, just so that these parents keep coming to them seeking a solution.

Data shows that 1 in 10 parents in Pakistan easily fall prey to the rumors about polio vaccination

According to a report issued by the polio program in March 2016, parents of 46,967 children refused to vaccinate their children across the country. Senator Ayesha Raza Farooq is the Prime Minister’s focal person for the polio eradication program. She introduced a special task force, which would go from home to home convincing people, creating awareness, and letting them know the consequences of acting otherwise. Those who failed to comply were arrested if they did not have a valid justification for choosing to not vaccinate their child.

However, there is a new challenge posing threat to the programme. Social media campaigns against polio vaccinations are working in the favour of anti-vaccination groups. While the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has ensured that anti-vaccine content does not go up in newspapers and online, they are still struggling with the sharing via apps like WhatsApp. Polio eradication is important at this point. It is extremely crucial that all major sources of misinformation are checked to ensure that each child in the country is vaccinated.