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Data on polio has been manipulated, claims PM’s focal person

ISLAMABAD: After a sudden rise in reported cases, the new leadership of the polio programme has reached a conclusion that data manipulation was done over the past few years as performance of the entire programme revolved around the data or numbers.

Moreover, in the past all the attention was given to controlling the disease and reducing the number of reported cases rather than eradication of the crippling disease’s virus.

“Across the globe it is observed that wherever 95 per cent children were vaccinated, against the polio, the virus was eradicated. Over the years the staff of polio programme claimed that it had vaccinated over 99pc children and in some cases, such as in January 2019, data showed that 101pc children were vaccinated. I believe that wrong data was given by the field staff as their performance depended on the number of vaccinated children,” Prime Minister’s Focal Person on Polio Babar Bin Atta said while talking to Dawn.

He claimed that a new strategy had been adopted due to which within a year poliovirus would be restricted to core reservoir of Peshawar.

Mr Atta, to prove his point, said that in India 95pc children were vaccinated continuously and it achieved the target of becoming a polio-free country.

“I have to admit that there was a communication gap between field workers and the management due to which filed workers claimed that they had vaccinated over 99pc children. Moreover, parents had markers, which were used for marking on fingers, due to which same results were observed during verifications and fingers of children were observed marked. However, whenever a child was infected with polio, it was revealed that he/she was not vaccinated and it was a refusal case,” he said.

He said that after the incident of Peshawar, it was decided that parents would not be pressurised for vaccination. During campaigns it was observed that around 8pc of the parents refused to vaccinate their children.

It is worth mentioning that during a nationwide polio campaign in April, students of a school of Mashokhel were taken to the Hayatabad Medical Complex in Peshawar with the complaint that they suffered reaction because of polio vaccine. However, it was revealed later that a drama was staged against the polio campaign and all the children had no reaction. Some of the culprits involved in the drama were arrested and legal action was taken against them.

“Last month we conducted a survey in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and it was revealed that over 40pc of the population understand that multiple doses were required for the children, over 31pc said ‘No’ while over 27pc were not sure about it. It showed over 44pc population was aware of the risk that their children are at risk of getting polio while overt 55pc did not believe in it,” he said.

He also said that unfortunately, in the past, programme was considered as the disease control programme rather than the virus eradication programme.

“Virus is very smart due to which it found children, having weak immunity level, and paralysed them. When we tested paralysed children, it was proved that they did not have vaccine,” he said.

“It is unfortunate that parents have kept markers at their homes and they mark the fingers of their children on the starting day of a campaign. Then they claim that their children are vaccinated. In October 2017, there was better situation in terms of reported cases, as compared to today, but the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) on Polio stated that Pakistan should not continue fooling itself by believing that it has done the job,” he said.

Mr Atta said that it had been decided to start Polio Tahafuz Helpline from which not only assistance would be provided to parents, but a call would also be made, in voice of Imran Khan, to every parent that polio vaccine is in the best interest of their children.

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