In 2007 Parents of some 24,000 children in Pakistan refused to give their children the polio vaccine because of a campaign by radical Muslim clergy.
A Pakistani health official in charge of a campaign to innoculate children against polio was killed in a bomb blast in February 2007, following rumours the vaccination was a US plot to sterilise them.(AFP/File/Ali Arif)
In India there has not been a single recorded case of polio in over a year.
The Telegraph reported:
There has not been a single recorded new case of the disease since January last year, and if that remains the case for the rest of the year the disease will be officially eradicated.
It is an extraordinary achievement for a country where as recently as 1995 there were 32,000 polio cases and young victims can still be seen with misshapen limbs begging at traffic lights throughout the main cities.
But officials believe this will soon be a symbol of India’s past as rising wealth is reflected in better basic healthcare.
The campaign to eradicate polio in India was launched by its government in 1999 and has been supported by international health charities and groups like Rotary in whose volunteers, including many from Britain, have helped distribute the vaccines.
To achieve “polio-free” status by January next year officials and volunteers are staging “National Immunisation Days” around the country to immunize more than 170 million children under five – around 15 per cent of India’s population.
Unfortunately, in neighboring Pakistan there is a resurgence of the disease. This is because Islamist leaders regularly denounced polio vaccination as an American ploy to sterilise and reduce the population of Muslims.
The Guardian reported:
Militancy in Pakistan’s federally administered tribal areas (Fata) has triggered a different kind of ordeal; the resurgence of polio or infantile paralysis – a potentially fatal and paralysing disease that mostly affects children, pregnant women and the elderly. Being one of the four countries where polio is still endemic, it has become a cause of concern for neighbouring countries such as China where a recent case of wild polio virus (WPV1) was genetically linked to Pakistan.
In the Khyber Agency, more than 200,000 children have regularly missed immunisation since 2009, and as many as 84 nationwide cases of polio have been reported this year. Apart from inaccessibility due to security concerns, one of the reasons for lack of immunisation is reluctance from the parents, stemming from rumours that polio drops cause impotency and infertility.
These rumours first surfaced when Maulana Fazlullah, leader of a banned militant organisation and an influential religious cleric in the tribal areas, launched a campaign against polio vaccination through his daily sermons. Sermons through radio and mosque loudspeakers denounced polio vaccination as an American ploy to sterilise and reduce the population of Muslims.
The polio vaccine rumors are broadcast from loud speakers at the local mosques in Pakistan.