Stories about polio vaccines

Can Pakistan be polio-free?

People who know me well know that I often compulsively compare and contrast India and Pakistan by virtue of not just their close proximity, but because I consider both countries as my home. When the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared India polio free on March 27, 2014, after it had not had a single case since 2009, I was filled with great pride. Knowing that India is densely populated, afflicted with poverty and has poor access to healthcare for millions, polio eradication was indeed something to celebrate. But as in every such situation, I naturally wanted to know how long it ...

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Polio vaccine: Is it really as safe as it is claimed to be?

Reporting on polio vaccination has secured a regular slot in major media outlets. The reporting is mostly always supportive of the vaccination campaign commonly called “polio eradication”. But is the Oral Polio Vaccine( OPV), or Sabin vaccine (named after Albert Sabin), which is administered to millions of children in the developing world, really safe? Does it have no harmful effect on human health a claimed by some doctor in a recent story? The short answer is: no, it’s not completely safe. Not only can it cause permanent disability in some children, it actually has caused epidemics of paralysis in at least two countries ...

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Living with polio in Pakistan

“I always wanted to study but my dream to get higher education remained just that, a dream. I was unable to complete my Matric because of my disability. It would pain me immensely to see girls who were with me in school going to college and making something of themselves.” Maria, while wiping her tears, was discussing the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) government’s new scheme regarding free education for the disabled. Maria is 32-years-old and is a resident of Gulbahar in Peshawar. She was diagnosed with polio when she was one-year-old, soon after she got her polio vaccination. She is currently living with her brother ...

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How polio affected my life

The summer and winter vacations were always splendid. Every year we’d pack our bags and buy a tonne of junk food to survive the three-hour long journey to our village in interior Sindh. Whether it was the heat or the cold, Sindh’s wind is merciless. Mom would make extra arrangements for light clothing, ORS, Tang and sunscreen for the trip and the stay-over at Nani’s house. Yearning to see the twinkle in Nani’s eye, we’d go running towards her as soon as the car reached the driveway. She’d be standing there in the front yard, eagerly waiting for her daughter ...

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The curse of the green passport

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recently recommended travel restrictions on Pakistanis travelling abroad to prevent the spread of the polio virus, as Pakistan continues to be one of the few remaining countries where polio is still considered a threat. This aforementioned restrictions seem to be a last ditch effort by the public health agency to curb the spread of the virus from a country that has been unable to run a sustained inoculation campaign due to a variety of reasons which are better left unsaid. However, what I am concerned about more is the effect that these travel restrictions will have on Pakistani travellers who are already ...

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A vaccine a day…

I have heard her say, She fears for him, for his fleeting eyes, For his silent voice, He has built some walls A tad too thick and far too long. He has escaped from this world and now he lives within, Surrounded by his opacity, she yearns to hear him, She says, one of these days, he will talk, he will shout She is sure, the storm, that is brewing inside him, will be let out, She is afraid, before it consumes him, she wants him to consume her, With his head against the ground, with his nonsensical articulations, Bouncing off the walls, she just wants to hear him talk, ...

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Another polio worker killed: Will we ever kick the disease?

Despite some gains, the fight against polio is facing mammoth challenges in the form of refusals by parents to vaccinate their children and the ban imposed by militant groups on polio vaccination campaigns. Sharafata, a female polio worker was killed in Peshawar yesterday, after she and her team were shot at by two gunmen on a motorcycle. Her team member Sumbal is in a critical condition. The Afghan Taliban recently announced that they would support polio vaccinations, but warned foreigners not to participate in the campaigns. The insurgents said they supported all programmes “which work for the healthcare of the helpless people ...

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From brainwashing to target killing

On Tuesday, target killing incidents in Karachi and Peshawar halted the anti-polio drive in Sindh and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. It didn’t end there, as Wednesday saw another attack on a polio health worker. The victims’ ‘felony’  immunising children against polio. While extremists might deem them as ‘traitors’, I think these health workers are martyrs. To the great contentment of extremists who have opposed the anti-polio drive for years now, no children will be immunised against polio in Karachi and Peshawar at least during this drive.  These hostile elements were probably encouraged by Dr Shakil Afridi’s confession of involvement in espionage using a ...

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All I ask for is two drops

They whisper of demons that lurk in water the secrets it holds, the lies I thirst… The oasis knocks at my door, With the two drops I seek But my water, I’m denied By the whispers of the unknowing I thirst… Helpless before this treason, Of whispers I cannot stop, The word you utter is a plague, The vengeful cackle of pox, I thirst, I wait… In the lonely hills of the west, That sanity long forsake, No water to be seen, In the empty nest of my dove, The oasis knocks at my door, They’ve hidden away the key, My water has been swallowed, By the barrels of their guns, Lo, a vanguard of toddlers, Whom warriors cower behind, We, the ...

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Don’t play God with the lives of innocent children

As the rest of the world rockets forward, we in Pakistan seem to be heading backwards. Neighbouring countries like India and Bangladesh having grappled with the issue of polio, are now on the path of enjoying a polio free ride. On the other hand, Pakistan is one of the three nations, along with Nigeria and Afghanistan, which still remains ridden with the polio endemic. Unfortunately, even struggling for complete eradication may not be possible under the current circumstances prevailing in the country. Recently, North Waziristan imposed a polio ban in the area as a protest against drone strikes. Apart from this, hundreds ...

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