ISLAMABAD: National Islamic Advisory Group (NIAG) on Tuesday reiterated continued support for the polio eradication programme in Pakistan and efforts to root out the virus from its core reservoirs.
Members of NIAG core group met at the National Emergency Operations Centre to review the national and provincial work plans and ensure alignment with the eradication programme plan under the National Emergency Action Plan (NEAP) 2017-18.
There are have only four recorded cases so far this year and great progress toward the goal making it easy to conclude that the worst is over and Pakistan is striving to achieve and maintain zero, but the reality is far different.
The programme’s environmental surveillance network has informed that positive polio sewage samples are still being detected from key hot spots such as Karachi, Quetta, Qilla Abdullah as well as the twin cities of Rawalpindi-Islamabad requiring focused efforts to close any gaps and critical need for sustaining gains in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
In her message to the forum, the Prime Minister’s Focal Person for Polio Eradication Senator Ayesha Raza Farooq lauded the role of learned religious scholars in addressing questions and misconceptions from communities, families and parents – a key role in the pursuit to protect children.
“Despite the progress made to date in bringing the number of children paralyzed by the poliovirus to a record low, anything less than the protection of every single child in Pakistan from the menace of polio cannot be acceptable,” Senator Farooq said.
“Parents often ask me a question on the number of times a child can be vaccinated? The oral polio vaccine is safe – medically there’s no limit to how many times you can receive it. Polio invades your child’s body, makes him or her disabled for life, and even kills. There is no cure from this disease! However, the polio drops are there to protect your child – polio drops are like bricks of a wall, if you want to build a strong wall between your child and the enemy, you need more bricks”.
National Emergency Operations Centre Coordinator, Dr Rana Muhammad Safdar highlighted that to stamp out polio, we have to block the virus from finding a host, and each child if not fully vaccinated is at risk and this also endangers the health of the nation.
“Recent cases indicate that the resilient polio virus has the capability to reach and paralyze our children as long as they are sub-optimally protected either because of refusals or being missed for other reasons,” he said.
He said that the data clearly indicates that there are still vulnerable children who could not avail every vaccination opportunity during last year’s campaigns, and we must do better in upcoming campaigns or place the progress achieved at risk.
Chair of the core group of NIAG Maulana Hanif Jalandhri, said that vaccinating children against polio is in accordance with Islamic Shariah teachings and is considered a religious obligation as effective means to protect children’s health and save their lives.
“I am always keen that my own grandchildren would not miss their polio drops every time the vaccination teams knock on my door.
“Our support to the campaign will continue until Pakistan is polio-free and all our children are safe from polio.” Maulana Jalandhri said.
Former federal minister and chair of Polio Plus Ulema Committee, Maulana Hanif Tayyab said it is our duty and responsibility as religious community leaders is to ensure parents vaccinate their children under the age of five against this debilitating but preventable disease, especially those who have not been vaccinated before or missed in the campaign. It is parent’s religious obligation to do so as ignoring this might leave these children paralyzed for life.
The support of religious leaders has been instrumental in increasing vaccine acceptance and reaching missed children in communities across Pakistan. NIAG was formed in June 2013 on the recommendations of Islamic Advisory Group.
The role undertaken by Islamic scholars across Pakistan has been vital in guiding the religious leaders of communities across the country on the importance of vaccination, dispelling misconceptions about the vaccine and build trust among their communities.