Pakistan wraps up anti-polio drive amid surge in cases

Health

A health worker gives a polio vaccine to a child in Lahore, Pakistan, Tuesday, July 21, 2020. Pakistan resumed vaccinations against polio, months after the drive against this crippling children’s disease was halted because the novel coronavirus had overwhelmed the country’s health system. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) — Pakistan on Friday wrapped up a five-day vaccination campaign against polio in the former Taliban stronghold of South Waziristan and elsewhere in the country amid a surge in cases, officials said.

Vaccinations started on Monday, aiming to have about 800,000 children inoculated. Fortunately during this campaign, there were no reports of militant attacks on polio teams or police escorting them, said Aimal Riaz Khan, a spokesman for the polio emergency center in the northwest.

Medical workers participating in the drive also urged parents and families to abide by social distancing regulations to avoid a spike in coronavirus cases.

Pakistan is one of three countries in the world where polio — a disabling and life-threatening disease caused by the polio virus — is still endemic. The other two are Afghanistan and Nigeria.

The Taliban and other militants in Pakistan often attack polio teams and police escorting them, claiming the anti-polio drive is part of an alleged Western conspiracy to sterilize children or collect intelligence.

Pakistan had hoped to eliminate polio by 2018, when only 12 cases were reported. But last year saw a surge and so far this year, 108 cases have been registered.

Khan said the polio spike came after February, when Pakistan halted anti-polio campaigns amid increasing coronavirus infections.

Pakistan has reported more than 270,000 infections, including 5,763 deaths from COVID-19, the illness caused by the new virus.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

CBS47 On Your Side

Do you have a problem that you need help solving? Contact CBS47 and let us be On Your Side.

Phone: 559-761-0383
Email: OnYourSide@cbsfresno.com