Pakistan arrests parents for refusing children's polio vaccinations
Hundreds of parents who refused to vaccinate their children against polio have been arrested by Pakistani authorities, officials said on Tuesday, as Taliban threats as well as community opposition have blocked efforts by the government to eradicate polio in areas considered to be its last strongholds.
According to the director for health at the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa region, Pervez Kamal, officials who were getting frustrated with the situation at the ground turned to the police to help them deal with the parents, who have been influenced by some clerics who state that the vaccination process is a tool by the government to weaken Islam, refused to vaccinate their kids.
"There was no other option. We have run so many awareness campaigns for the parents and general masses that there is no harm in the vaccine, but to no avail," Kamal said.
Last year there were 306 polio cases which were reported in Pakistan, this was the largest record to be recorded in the world, according to Global Eradicate Polio Initiative.
On Tuesday Kamal said that there has been lists of “chronic” refusal cases have been prepared and warrants for arrest have been issued for over 1,000 parents.
"So far, we have arrested 471 parents and efforts are under way to capture others," said a police officer in Peshawar.
Polio, a common childhood disease that mostly affects children who are under the age of 5 and is known to cause paralysis, has seen a decline of 99% in the last 25 years. This has been possible due to aggressive vaccination campaigns which have been launched worldwide.