ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s federal government will initiate a five-day anti-polio campaign in the country’s northwestern Peshawar, Khyber and Hangu districts from Monday, according to a report by the state-run Radio Pakistan.
Pakistan and Afghanistan remain the only two countries in the world where polio remains endemic. Islamabad’s efforts to eliminate the disease have been hampered by the masses’ suspicion of foreign entities who fund vaccination programs and of the government itself.
Pakistan’s Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar vowed last Tuesday that the government would resist “anti-vaxxers” and realize the dream of a polio-free Pakistan. He lamented that those who resisted polio vaccines were working for the “forces of darkness.”
“A five-day anti-polio campaign will begin in Peshawar, Khyber and Hangu districts tomorrow (Monday),” Radio Pakistan said in a report on Sunday.
It added that 1.2 million children would be administered anti-polio drops during the campaign.
“About four thousand five hundred teams have been constituted to vaccinate children from door to door,” the report said.
Pakistani authorities and polio workers often face hurdles in administering polio vaccination drops to children as the masses regard the activity with suspicion.
Many in Pakistan believe in the conspiracy theory that polio vaccines are part of a plot by Western outsiders to sterilize the country’s population. The masses’ doubts regarding polio campaigns were exacerbated in 2011 when the US Central Intelligence Agency set up a fake hepatitis vaccination program to gather intelligence on former Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.
Violent attacks on polio volunteers and security personnel guarding them are common in Pakistan.