Poliomyelitis in Pakistan
Pakistan is one of the two remaining countries in the world where poliomyelitis (polio) is still categorized as an endemic viral infection, the other being Afghanistan. As of October 2015, there have been 38 documented cases of wild poliovirus in Pakistan in the past year.
Though the polio immunization campaign in the country started in 1974, the efforts for eradication officially started in 1994. The infection remains endemic despite over 100 rounds of vaccination being carried out in the past decade. Pakistan had the world's highest number of polio cases in 2014, and as of October 2015, it has maintained this record. However, the number of cases in 2015 are a fraction of those recorded in 2014. The country has announced a goal of eradication by 2016.
- 1 Eradication efforts in the 20th century
- 2 21st century
- 3 Factors affecting eradication
- 4 Impact of polio in Pakistan
- 5 See also
- 6 External links
- 7 Further reading
- 8 References
Eradication efforts in the 20th century
The Expanded Programme of Immunization (EPI) was begun in Pakistan by the World Health Organization (WHO) in the 1970s to combat deaths from six vaccine-preventable diseases. In 1980, the EPI had vaccinated just 2% of the population against polio; by 1990, the coverage had increased to 54%. In a 1994 interview, CDC officials predicted total polio eradication in Pakistan within two to three years; by 1995, the WHO projected total eradication by the year 2000, a target that the organization reaffirmed in 1998.
However, despite donor attention, the rate of vaccinations sagged. By 1991, only 83 percent of Pakistani children had been vaccinated. Research by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in April 1998 cited a failure to vaccinate, vaccine failure, and inadequate immunization strategies as causes for the continued incidences of polio in this time. Reasons for under-vaccination included the population being uninformed, considering vaccination unimportant, and having to travel long distances to vaccination sites. In response to these challenges, organizations including the WHO, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), CDC, Rotary International, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pulled together to develop and fund intensive eradication campaigns, including door-to-door vaccinations.
In March 2001, about 27 million children were vaccinated across the country in the hope that Pakistan could be virus-free by the end of that year. As of 2004, when there were 30 million children in Pakistan under five, about 200,000 health workers were required for a vaccination campaign that was carried out eight times a year. A documentary, Polio True Stories, was aired on several television channels to make people aware of the problems facing people affected by the disease.
Opposition to the polio vaccination program by militant groups continues to thwart the success of eradication efforts. In 2014, the number of polio cases reached 306, the highest it has been since 2000.
In August 2015, the country launched an injectable polio vaccine intended to treat four million children and bring Pakistan closer to its goal of eradication by 2016. While the new vaccine is pricier than the traditional oral polio vaccine (OPV) and requires that a doctor or nurse administer it, the injection needs only one dose, not repeated doses, to generate immunity.
Connection to the Assassination of Osama Bin Laden
Leading up to the early 2000s, Pakistani vaccination workers were making notable progress in eliminating the polio virus in the highly infected areas of Gadap, Quetta Block (Quetta, Pishin, Kila Abdullah Districts), FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Peshawar and the neighboring areas of Mardan, Charsaddah, Nowshehra and Lakki Marwat.
In 2011, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employed the services of Pakistani doctor, Shakil Afridi, and local health officials to stage a fake vaccination campaign in an attempt to confirm Osama Bin Laden's location in Abbottabad. This ruse was organized in an effort to gain more knowledge on Bin Laden's whereabouts prior to Operation Neptune Spear. While it is still unknown if Afridi was aware of the implications for his services in the campaign, the main goal of the CIA was to collect DNA samples of Osama Bin Laden's children from blood left on the needles used to deliver the Hepatitis B vaccination.
The CIA's fake vaccination campaign has had severe lasting effects on the North West corner of Pakistan. Since 2012, at least 70 polio workers have been killed in Pakistan. Many of the attacks have been claimed by the Taliban, who forward claims that the vaccination campaigns are a facade for intelligence gathering. The fake Hepatitis B campaign has caused people to question the motivations behind all vaccination campaigns, leading to a spike in poliomyelitis cases from 198 in 2011 to 306 cases in 2014. Many citizens of both the US and various other nations have criticized the CIA's vaccination campaign for the effects that it has had on Pakistan's public health.
Recent government efforts
In 2015, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government issued arrest warrants for 1,200 parents and guardians for refusing to administer vaccine to their children. 512 people were arrested on the charge but were later freed after signing an undertaking that they would not oppose vaccination.
By 2015, new cases of polio had dropped by 70% as compared to 2014, due to increased vaccination in parts of the northwest Pakistan that had previously been under the control of militants. These areas were secured by Pakistani forces in the Zarb-e-Azb Campgain against Taliban militants. Previously, vaccination teams were forbidden by militants from vaccinating children in the area.
Factors affecting eradication
Some of the reasons which affect the eradication of polio are political unrest, poor health infrastructure, and government negligence. The most afflicted areas are those where militants are present and the government lacks absolute control, such as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Transmission of the virus from such areas then leads to spread through other parts of the country.
Due to the fact that the vaccines are primarily produced in western countries, militant groups like Tehrik-i-Taliban propagandize that they are made out of pig fat or contain alcohol, the two things that are forbidden in Islam. Some clerics have also denounced the vaccines. There is also a myth prevalent in many of the areas with low literacy rates that the immunization sterilizes the local population.
In early 2012, it was reported that some parents refused to get their children vaccinated in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA on religious grounds but overall religious refusals in the rest of the country have "decreased manifold".
Both major sides of the Afghani civil war now support polio vaccination, and polio rates are declining rapidly in Afghanistan, with only seven cases in 2015 (as of August 18, 2015). In Pakistan there were 29 cases in the same period, with organizational difficulties slowing immunization, but more than ten million children have been vaccinated in 2015. This is the last remaining region with active polio cases as of 2015.
The potential role of Saudi Arabia
Some researchers point to the unique role that Saudi Arabia is able to play in the affairs of the Muslim-majority Pakistan, both as the site of the annual Islamic pilgrimage (the Hajj) and as the seat of formal Islamic authority, in terms of the ability to pass fatwas and shape public opinion. Given that over 10% (200,000) of the Hajj pilgrims are Pakistani, Saudi Arabia has a vested interest in eradication campaigns in Pakistan to prevent spread during Hajj. One possible avenue for the Muslim world to eliminate the polio threat is to have local mosques and community centres promote vaccination, emphasizing that the sanctity of life is foremost in Islam. If supported by national and international Muslim organisations, with the aid of world health agencies and Muslim public health scholars, this policy could reduce the extent of misinformation the Taliban is able to spread.
Poor health infrastructure
Pakistan's healthcare system is burdened by poor public-sector funding, an ill-regulated private sector, and a lack of governmental transparency, all of which contribute to limiting the quality of public health services. Though the Polio Eradication Initiative is well funded, it is delivered through the underfunded public infrastructure. Members of the Polio Eradication Committee in Pakistan have also expressed concerns regarding the accountability of the organizations backing the campaign.
Since the number of cases began to rise following the raid on the Osama Bin Laden compound, organizations including local health authorities, government workers, WHO, and UNICEF have been asserting blame rather than addressing the public health issues at hand. The public health system provides various avenues for institutionalized malpractice, wherein resources are leached. Staff misconduct is common, where staff members remain absent from duty, fail to run field operations, and divert vaccine for use in private facilities. This can result in the attachment of costs to services intended to be free.
Fecal-oral transmission is the most common source of transmission of the poliovirus in developing countries, including Pakistan. In addition to the poor health and water sanitation infrastructure, the transmission of the virus is also heightened because of the high population density and climate conditions. Studies have indicated that the polio vaccine has reduced per-dose efficacy in areas near the Tropics, including Pakistan and its neighboring country India. As a consequence of the climate in South Asia, sometimes ten or more doses of the vaccine need to be administered, each a month apart, in order to ensure immunity. The month-long spacing can itself be a reason for families not to complete the vaccination schedule, because transportation could prove unreliable from month to month, and parents might be unable to take time off of work for risk of losing the day's income or losing their job entirely.
The threat of natural disaster also plays a role in delaying total eradication of polio. For example, Pakistan is prone to earthquakes and heavy monsoon rains. In the 2010 Pakistan floods, of the 20 million affected, a majority were in the lowest socioeconomic percentile. In addition to cases of dengue fever, cholera, and measles, the WHO reported an upsurge in cases of polio. By November 2010, Pakistan accounted for about 62% of all polio cases from endemic countries, with most new cases being from areas affected by the floods.
Perceptions of Pakistani parents
Another reason for the resistance to the polio vaccine is one of mindset. There is a common perception that other issues are more pressing than vaccination. A manifestation of this is the policy perspective that, if the source of the virus is contaminated drinking water, efforts should be made to purify the water rather than focus on the treatment of disease caused by ingesting the water. Surveys of the Pakistani population show that a significant number feel that the allocation of funding to prevent the problem is more efficient than retroactive treatment once the problem (the spread of polio) has already happened.
Additionally, it has been shown that low parental - specifically, maternal - literacy and knowledge regarding vaccines and immunization schedules, poor socioeconomic status, and residence in rural areas all are attributable to decreased rates of immunization completion. Parental education is one of the most important determiners of whether children will complete their vaccinations. In a study of two-parent households in Pakistan, it was shown that the father's knowledge about health most impacted immunization decisions, with an effect so large that some researchers contend improving education will improve health more so than even the provision of health services.
Impact of polio in Pakistan
Polio has had drastic effects on the health of the population of Pakistan and on the nation's healthcare infrastructure and economy. The WHO estimates that 65–75% of polio cases in developing countries occur in children under 3 years of age, with 95% of all cases occurring in children under 5 years of age. Researchers at the School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University quantified the disease burden of various diseases in Pakistan; in the year 1990, a Pakistani person with polio averaged a loss of 1.13 healthy life years to the disease. The duration of disability of polio, averaged over 1000 people, was 81.84 years, the equivalent of diseases including diphtheria, childhood meningitis, and measles.
There has been limited research into the impacts of polio in Pakistan in recent years, but a 1988 health survey found that the most common handicaps among polio sufferers were associated with mobility, occupation, and social integration. The survey found differences in participants based on whether they lived in a village or a slum area: there was a higher rate of handicap in the village population, and higher frequencies of infectious, respiratory, and digestive diseases in the slum area. Both areas saw polio victims suffer from a higher incidence of musculoskeletal system diseases, as well as infections of the ear, and respiratory tract. Given 1–2 years with occupational therapists, 80% of patients with handicaps showed improvement in function.
- Closser, Svea. Chasing Polio in Pakistan: Why the World's Largest Public Health Initiative May Fail. Vanderbilt University Press, 2010. ISBN 978-0826517098.
- "Every Last Child," documentary film, 2015.
- "Global Polio Eradication Initiative > Key countries". www.polioeradication.org. Retrieved 2015-10-19.
- "Nigeria reaches polio 'milestone' - BBC News". BBC News. Retrieved 2015-10-19.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (2006). "Update on vaccine-derived polioviruses". MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 55 (40): 1093–7. PMID 17035927.
- "Global Polio Eradication Initiative > Data and monitoring > Polio this week". www.polioeradication.org. Retrieved 2015-10-20.
- Mangrio, Nawab Khan; Alam, Muhammad Mazhar; Shaikh, Babar Tasneem (2008-02-01). "Is Expanded Programme on Immunization doing enough? Viewpoint of health workers and managers in Sindh, Pakistan". JPMA. The Journal of the Pakistan Medical Association. 58 (2): 64–67. ISSN 0030-9982. PMID 18333522.
- Obregón, Rafael; Chitnis, Ketan; Morry, Chris; Feek, Warren; Bates, Jeffrey; Galway, Michael; Ogden, Ellyn. "Achieving polio eradication: a review of health communication evidence and lessons learned in India and Pakistan". Bulletin of the World Health Organization. 87 (8): 624–630. ISSN 0042-9686. doi:10.1590/S0042-96862009000800020.
- Bhutta ZA (2013-09-04). "Conflict and polio: Winning the polio wars". JAMA. 310 (9): 905–906. ISSN 0098-7484. PMID 24002271. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.276583.
- "Pakistan launches new polio vaccine, aims for 2016 wipeout". Yahoo News. Retrieved 2015-10-20.
- BBC (3 June 2015). "Polio in Pakistan: Drop of 70% recorded this year". BBC. Retrieved 3 June 2015.
- Ali, S. Z. (2000-07-01). "Health for all in Pakistan: achievements, strategies and challenges". Eastern Mediterranean Health Journal = La Revue De Santé De La Méditerranée Orientale = Al-Majallah Al-Ṣiḥḥīyah Li-Sharq Al-Mutawassiṭ. 6 (4): 832–837. ISSN 1020-3397. PMID 11794092.
- Closser, Svea. ""We Can't Give Up Now": Global Health Optimism and Polio Eradication in Pakistan". Medical Anthropology. 31 (5): 385–403. doi:10.1080/01459740.2011.645927.
- "Third Plenary Session". 1994 Proceedings: Eighty-Fifth Annual Convention of Rotary International. Taipei: Rotary International. 15 June 1994. p. 38. Retrieved 26 May 2012.
- Hennessey, Karen A.; Marx, Arthur; Hafiz, Rehan; Ashgar, Humayun; Hadler, Stephen C.; Jafari, Hamid; Sutter, Roland W. (2000-07-01). "Widespread Paralytic Poliomyelitis in Pakistan: A Case-Control Study to Determine Risk Factors and Implications for Poliomyelitis Eradication". Journal of Infectious Diseases. 182 (1): 6–11. ISSN 0022-1899. PMID 10882575. doi:10.1086/315675.
- "Information about the Disease and Vaccine" (PDF). Polio: Questions and Answers. Immunization Action Coalition. April 2015. Retrieved 19 October 2015.
- Silver, Cary, ed. (May 2001). "Pakistani Rotarians help immunize 27 million children in NIDs". The Rotarian. Rotarian International: 54. ISSN 0035-838X. Retrieved 28 May 2012.
- Svea Closser (16 August 2010). Chasing Polio in Pakistan: Why the World's Largest Public Health Initiative May Fail. Vanderbilt University Press. pp. 40–41. ISBN 978-0826517098. Retrieved 27 May 2012.
- "Polio True Stories". Country Programme Human Interest Stories. UNICEF. Retrieved 27 May 2012.
- "Pakistan launches new polio vaccine, aims for 2016 wipeout". Yahoo News. Retrieved 2015-10-20.
- "Polio in Pakistan". End Polio Pakistan. 2015. Retrieved 19 October 2015.
- Heidi Larson (27 May 2012). "The CIA's fake vaccination drive has damaged the battle against polio". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 June 2012.
- "Bin Laden death: 'CIA doctor' accused of treason". BBC News. 6 October 2011. Retrieved 8 October 2011.
- Lenzer, Jeanne (2011-07-19). "Fake vaccine campaign in Pakistan could threaten plans to eradicate polio". BMJ. 343: d4580. ISSN 0959-8138. PMID 21771828. doi:10.1136/bmj.d4580.
- "Four kidnapped polio workers are found dead in Pakistan - BBC News". BBC News. Retrieved 2015-10-20.
- "Pakistan’s fight against polio clashes with battle against Taliban". The National. 20 January 2015. Retrieved 18 March 2015.
- "How the CIA’s Fake Vaccination Campaign Endangers Us All". Scientific American. Retrieved 19 September 2017.
- "Polio: Arrest warrants for parents reduce cases of vaccination refusal". DAWN. 6 March 2015. Retrieved 18 March 2015.
- "Explainer: Why Polio Remains Endemic In Afghanistan, Pakistan, And Nigeria". Radio Free Europe. 20 December 2012. Retrieved 18 March 2015.
- Imran Ali Teepu (26 February 2012). "WHO rejects polio imad rumours". Dawn. Retrieved 3 June 2012.
- Stephanie Nebehay (August 18, 2015). "CORRECTED-Pakistan, Afghanistan must step up fight against polio - WHO". Reuters.com. Reuters. Retrieved October 28, 2015.
- Ahmed, Qanta A; Nishtar, Sania; Memish, Ziad A (May 2013). "Poliomyelitis in Pakistan: time for the Muslim world to step in". The Lancet. 381 (9877): 1521–1523. PMID 23623055. doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(13)60764-3.
- Nishtar, Sania. "Pakistan, politics and polio". Bulletin of the World Health Organization. 88 (2): 159–160. ISSN 0042-9686. doi:10.1590/S0042-96862010000200018.
- Khan, M Illyas (18 January 2015). "What must Pakistan do to beat polio?". BBC News. BBC. Retrieved 19 October 2015.
- Nishtar, Sania (2010). Choked pipes: reforming Pakistan's mixed health system. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0195479690.
- Fine, Paul E. M.; Carneiro, Ilona A. M. (1999-11-15). "Transmissibility and Persistence of Oral Polio Vaccine Viruses: Implications for the Global Poliomyelitis Eradication Initiative". American Journal of Epidemiology. 150 (10): 1001–1021. ISSN 0002-9262. PMID 10568615. doi:10.1093/oxfordjournals.aje.a009924.
- "WHO | Poliomyelitis (Polio)". www.who.int. Retrieved 2015-11-04.
- John, T. Jacob; Jayabal, P. (1972-10-01). "Oral Polio Vaccination of Children in the Tropics: I. the Poor Seroconversion Rates and the Absence of Viral Interference". American Journal of Epidemiology. 96 (4): 263–269. ISSN 0002-9262. PMID 4342327.
- Grassly, Nicholas C.; Fraser, Christophe; Wenger, Jay; Deshpande, Jagadish M.; Sutter, Roland W.; Heymann, David L.; Aylward, R. Bruce (2006-11-17). "New Strategies for the Elimination of Polio from India". Science. 314 (5802): 1150–1153. ISSN 0036-8075. PMID 17110580. doi:10.1126/science.1130388.
- Warraich, Haider; Zaidi, Anita KM; Patel, Kavita. "Floods in Pakistan: a public health crisis". Bulletin of the World Health Organization. 89 (3): 236–237. ISSN 0042-9686. PMC . PMID 21379421. doi:10.2471/BLT.10.083386.
- Hedayat, Nelufar (16 April 2015). "Suspicion slows dangerous work to eradicate polio in Pakistan". The Guardian. The Guardian News. Retrieved 19 October 2015.
- Owais, Aatekah; Hanif, Beenish; Siddiqui, Amna R.; Agha, Ajmal; Zaidi, Anita KM (2011-04-17). "Does improving maternal knowledge of vaccines impact infant immunization rates? A community-based randomized-controlled trial in Karachi, Pakistan". BMC Public Health. 11 (1): 239. ISSN 1471-2458. PMC . PMID 21496343. doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-239.
- Aslam, Monazza; Kingdon, Geeta Gandhi (2012-10-01). "Parental Education and Child Health—Understanding the Pathways of Impact in Pakistan". World Development. 40 (10): 2014–2032. doi:10.1016/j.worlddev.2012.05.007.
- Peters, Susan Jeanne (2013-11-26). Education and Disability in Cross-Cultural Perspective. Routledge. ISBN 9781135811587.
- Hyder, A A; Morrow, R H (2000-08-01). "Applying burden of disease methods in developing countries: a case study from Pakistan.". American Journal of Public Health. 90 (8): 1235–1240. ISSN 0090-0036. PMC . PMID 10937003. doi:10.2105/ajph.90.8.1235.
- Grimby, Gunnar; Finnstam, Jane; Nelson, Gunnel; Rashid, Saeada (1988-01-01). "Evaluation of community-based rehabilitation in Punjab, Pakistan: II: The prevalence of diseases, impairments, and handicaps". International Disability Studies. 10 (2): 59–60. ISSN 0259-9147. PMID 3261293. doi:10.3109/09638288809164102.
- Finnstam, Jane; Grimby, Gunnar; Nelson, Gunnel; Rashid, Saeada (1988-01-01). "Evaluation of community-based rehabilitation in Punjab, Pakistan: I: Use of the WHO manual, ‘Training disabled people in the community’". International Disability Studies. 10 (2): 54–58. ISSN 0259-9147. PMID 3403499. doi:10.3109/09638288809164100.