By: Shukria Kohistani
KABUL: The Ministry of Public Health has said that about 60,000 children are deprived of anti-polio vaccination in Afghanistan due to denial of their families. The ministry, in a statement has said that negative propaganda and anti-vaccine rumors are still rampant in Afghanistan and this is why there are many families who believe the rumors and do not allow their children to be vaccinated.
“After insecurity, rumors are the second major factor preventing polio vaccine from reaching children under the age of five in Afghanistan,” said the ministry in a statement, referring to its website. Afghanistan is still one of the countries where polio has not been eradicated and according to the Ministry of Public Health, the number of polio cases, especially in the southern provinces of the country, increased by 50% last year compared to the previous year.
A number of people who have worked on the vaccination campaign from house to house have been interviewed about the anti-polio drive.
“They believed that negative publicity against the polio vaccine is still strong. Many families are skeptical of the vaccine campaign and see it as a conspiracy,” the statement quoted adding these people have even received threats in some cases.
Rumors of the vaccine are not limited to remote provinces, there are even families in Kabul who believe in the rumors, the statement added.
According to the ministry, about 10 million children needed the polio vaccine every year, and an average of 1.5 million children refuse to be vaccinated for various reasons, including these rumors, despite the Ministry of Public Health spends a significant amount of money each year to combat rumors relating to the vaccine. Polio is one of the most dangerous viruses in the world, affecting most children and in the medium term, the virus disrupts one or all of the body functions of the infected people or paralyzes them forever.
One of the vaccinators involved in 10 polio vaccination programs for children since 2018, says that he has done most of his work in the fifth district of Kabul city and when he wanted to vaccinate children under five in the district, he met with reactions and a number of families refused to vaccinate their children.
“Families rejected the vaccine, saying they would not vaccinate their children because their children would be at risk in the future,” said the statement referring to the interview from the people.
A number of other vaccinators continue to complain about the lack of cooperation from people in different parts of Kabul, saying that the majority of people do not cooperate with them and do not even open their doors for them.
“People should cooperate with us in implementing the polio vaccine and imams and preachers of the mosques to inform the mass about polio and that children under five should be vaccinated, otherwise the process will be too difficult to implement in many parts of the country,” Yasamin, one of the vaccinators, said asking the families to not put at risk the future of their children.
According to the ministry, about 10 million children need the polio vaccine each year, and 1.5 million of them cannot get the vaccine due to various reasons such as insecurity and negative publicity against the polio vaccine. Polio virus last year doubled compared to 1398 solar year, by which the number reached 56 positive cases. By the beginning of this year, three women were killed while receiving the polio vaccine in Nangarhar province, where people linked the killing of the three women to negative propaganda against the polio vaccine. But Ghulam Dastgir Nazari, a spokesman for the Ministry of Public Health, said that the attack was the work of ISIS, locally called as Daesh in Afghanistan.