Polio workers in Pakistan risk their lives every year to perform the task that the state allots to them. Becoming a polio worker is also synonymous with understanding the danger that comes with the job. Pakistan has become home to misconceptions about the polio vaccination and both, urban and rural population is unwilling to vaccinate their children. In some areas, the problem is quite extreme particularly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). In the province of KP, we have witnessed multiple attacks on the polio workers in the last couple of years.

Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan’s polio eradication programme has also been initiated in the current term and polio workers face the same risks to their lives. A female polio worker has lost her life in Swabi after motorcyclists opened fire at them. Areas, where it is difficult to operate for the polio workers, must be brought under state scrutiny to help create awareness regarding the use of the vaccination. At the same time, people must also be made aware of the innocent loss of lives. These polio workers set out to perform duties in favour of the people of the state. If they are not provided safety, the loss of lives will never stop.

The safety of polio workers should be the agenda of the government, particularly when it is relying heavily on them to bring down the number of polio cases in the country. The government should collect data to understand what areas pose a threat to the safety of these workers and devise alternative plans to get the children vaccinated. At the same time, there is a need to initiate awareness campaigns in the country outlining why vaccination is important, discussing some of the misconceptions related to it, and government offices they can connect with if they have missed the vaccination.

It is important to fight misconceptions in this case because it is the primary cause of loss of lives in this case. Due to the gross misrepresentation of what the vaccination actually does, both educated and uneducated people are willing to skip vaccinating their children. The same mentality gives rise to the threat that these misconceptions pose to the lives of the health workers who are just doing what the state requires of them. This particular incident should not go unnoticed. Polio health workers become an easy target and these deaths go unquestioned despite the dedication these people show for their jobs.

The government should provide a safety net to the polio workers in the country so that they feel safe while performing their job. Along with increased safety, the government also needs to invest in awareness campaigns that will help reduce the stigma around the polio vaccination.