PESHAWAR: The administration continues to arrest parents for refusing to administer anti-polio vaccine to their children despite calls by partner organisations that it can negatively affect the immunisation campaign.
However, sources claim that the move has drastically reduced refusal cases. On Monday, the administration issued warrants for arrest of 88 parents for refusing vaccination of their sons and daughters below age of five in Peshawar district despite disapproval of the partner organisations, who argued that registering FIRs would create obstacle to anti-polio campaign.
Over publicity of anti-polio campaign had cost great deal to polio vaccination in the past when UN vehicles were seen at the inaugural days of the campaign. The low-profile vaccination campaigns have led to rise in vaccination rate.
“The district administrations have been ordered by government to tackle refusal cases in their areas,” sources said. Partner agencies don’t approve arrests in connection with polio but the administration issues arrest order against defiant parents when it exhausts all other options.
Partner organisations fear registration of FIRs to affect anti-polio drive
“First we send jirga to the parents to convince them on vaccination of their children. We also deploy experts to alley suspicions of people about the OPV,” said, an assistant commissioner in one of the southern districts, where arrests have led to decrease in refusal cases.
He said that there were clear instructions from chief secretary to the districts to spearhead anti-polio vaccination. He said that there was no immunisation-specific law and administration booked the parents under Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance.
The official said that arrest warrants were issued as last resort to address the refusal cases. “We have reduced refusal cases from 15,000 to 1,000 only,” he added.
He said that the arrested people were freed when they agreed to vaccinate their children. “We send prayer leaders, notables and member of the union councils to convince parents on vaccination of their children,” he said.
Sources said that the province-wide reduction in refusal cases was a boost for the anti-polio campaign, which was affected owing to unvaccinated children. Throughout the province, 32,000 vaccinators administered OPV to 5.6 million children every month and only 100,000 children were either missed owing to inaccessibility or their refusal by their parents to administer the vaccine to them.
“The partner agencies are opposed to common use of MPO for arresting parents and say it would send wrong message regarding anti-polio immunisation,” sources said. The people, who defied OPV, were sceptical of vaccination and they should be convinced.
Sources said that there should be social acceptability for OPV.
“We arrest people for putting other children at risk. Nobody can create disturbance. The anti-polio vaccination is UN-led programme and it is government’s responsibility to eradicate polio under a global commitment made with international community,” a deputy commissioner told Dawn.
He said that registration of FIRs worked in clusters of families refusing the vaccines as most of them later agreed on vaccination. Contrary to fears by partner organisations that arrest in connection with polio would create resistance to vaccination campaigns, district administrations had standing directives that no laxity would be accepted in anti-polio immunisation, said the deputy commissioner.