The National Islamic Advisory Group (NIAG) reiterated continued support for Pakistan’s Polio Eradication Programme in its determined effort to root out the virus from its core reservoirs. Members of NIAG core group met here today 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.
With only four recorded cases so far this year and great progress toward the goal, it is easy to conclude that the worst is over but for a programme striving to achieve and maintain Zero – actually it’s not. The programme environmental surveillance network informs us, positive polio sewage samples are still being detected from key hotspots; Karachi, Quetta, Killa Abdullah as well as the twin cities of Rawalpindi-Islamabad requiring focused efforts to close any gaps. The importance of sustaining gains made in Khyber-Peshawar will be critical.
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 Pakistan’s pursuit to protect our children by reaching and vaccinating missed child. “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 – each child, simply put, 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. The data clearly indicates that we still have pockets of vulnerable children who could not avail every vaccination opportunity during last year’s campaigns – we must do better in upcoming campaigns or we put our remarkable progress at risk”.
Chair of the core group of NIAG Maulana Hanif Jalandhri, said “vaccinating children against polio is in accordance with Islamic Shariah and teachings and 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 “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 parents’ religious obligation to do so; 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 (IAG). 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.