Pakistan’s Problem with Polio Programmes

Rob Crilly, Telegraph (London), October 30, 2013

The global war against polio is in sight of its final objective. Rid Pakistan of the disease and we will be within touching distance of ridding the world of the virus once and for all, runs the message. Along with Nigeria and Afghanistan, it is one of the last remaining reservoirs. And health officials believe that with Pakistan polio-free, then Afghanistan would quickly be purged of the disease too. But Pakistan is proving a tough one.

Not only are there the extremists of the Pakistan Taliban, who have banned vaccination teams from entering their territory, but there is also a baffling, widespread perception that immunisation is part of some kind of Western plot.

Take the latest manifestation. A jirga of elders this week threatened to boycott the latest vaccination push if there areas did not see an end to power cuts. Similar demands have been made before.

One way to understand it is a brutal attempt to use the future health of children as a bargaining chip. But it also suggests a failure in public health campaigning.

To promote vaccination as a means of ridding the world of polio has led too many here in Pakistan to conclude that they can use their position as leverage.The West wants something, runs the argument, so what’s in it for us?

Just as governments have used Pakistan’s location after 9/11 to wring money, arms and favours from foreign powers, so too polio vaccination offers an opportunity for imaginative deals – whether for electricity or an end to drone strikes.

It shouldn’t be hard in a country where crippled beggars dragging themselves along the ground are a far from rare sight to change the messaging away from a global campaign to a local one. (Just like US justification of drone strikes often fail to describe the improvements in local security for Pakistanis.)

But while Pakistan prefers to resort to forced vaccinations or to sending in the police with vaccination teams, there is a danger that local populations will reject important public health campaigns as an unneeded foreign intervention.


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  • Perhaps the developed nations should have their children vaccinated while the groids suffer. They’ve never helped us.

    • Jesse_from_Sweden

      The point of eradicating it means we won’t have to vaccinate our children from it.
      Meaning no money wasted on vaccinating for something that is currently unlikely to happen, but that we today still has to do because there is a small risk for it.

      It helps us, by eradicating diseases we can decrease the battery of vaccinations that kids has to get, which decreases long-term cost (compare the cost of vaccinating millions upon millions of kids in Europe and North america every year for essentially all eternity, to the cost of vaccinating a few million kids in Pakistan and Afghanistan and then never have to vaccinate anyone ever again).

      • Certainly. One of the nicer things about polio is that it has no animal reservoir; this makes it subject to eradication, the way we did with smallpox. On the other hand, some diseases we contract are also caught by non-human primates and so are not subject to eradication. Yellow fever is a good example. Perhaps it would be fair to consider people who want to keep polio among themselves as non-human primates; they’re obviously stupid enough to qualify.

  • Le Fox

    Yeah…how’s that program going? I hear it’s going well in India and Afghanistan.

  • Spartacus

    As far as I’m concerned, anybody who does anything beneficial to a dark-skin is a race-traitor.

    • Carney3

      Fool. By wiping out a disease, any disease, we spare ourselves and our children of it as well.

      • Spartacus

        Then why not start with the serious diseases first ? Like the pakis themselves .

        • Carney3

          Unworthy of a reply.

          • Manaphy

            Yet you did reply.

  • Manaphy

    “Rid Pakistan of the disease and we will be within touching distance of ridding the world of the virus once and for all”

    One word: ISLAM.

  • bigone4u

    “…there is also a baffling, widespread perception that immunisation is part of some kind of Western plot.”
    Not so baffling, given the violence inflicted on them by US foreign policy. Bring the soldiers home, the medical teams home, everyone home. These third world lunatics in their own countries are no threat to me or you. If they want to keep killing each other and live as barbarians, well, I can’t save the world.

    • Carney3

      I guess 9/11 wasn’t so unforgettable after all.

      • bigone4u

        The official version of 9/11 has always seemed implausible to me. There is certainly enough evidence to have doubts. But that said, my comment included the proviso that those “in their own countries” are no threat to us. Now that a million or more of them are here, thought should be given to getting them out of the US.

    • MBlanc46

      Well said.

    • Strider73

      Perception here is reality. The US-run “vaccination” program in Pakistan a few years ago was actually a DNA-mining op in the quest to pinpoint OBL’s location. I would not be surprised if the subjects — mostly children — were given placebos. Would we react any differently here if “medical teams” from a hostile foreign power were roaming the countryside with syringes full of potentially useless (or noxious) substances?

  • Sick of it

    They may be jumping the gun, as Latin Americans with polio have been flooding into the United States (where it was formerly eradicated, same with TB). There are quite a few parts of the world where it has not been eradicated.

    • Guest

      It’s a shame that we have now become the dumping grounds for the rest of the world’s dredges.

    • I suspect these cases are the result of imported disease from elsewhere.

      • Sick of it

        Hard to say in a day and age when anyone could show up from anywhere at anytime without even being checked for disease. And I’m just waiting for someone to throw in a retarded reply to this one when I’ve actually returned post-9/11 from Africa and darn well know people are not checked for disease when they enter this country.

  • NordicHeritage

    Has anybody noticed the large influx of muslims in their area? It appears as if they are now letting them in in droves.

  • rightrightright

    So the West has to bribe Pakistan for the privilege of being allowed to do them a favour! Cameron’s rotten government already hands over billions in aid to this ramshackle, corrupt and cruel country. We should give them nothing. They created their mess, filth, squalor and short lives. Ditto Afghanistan. We should leave them to enjoy all this islamic perfection in isolation.

  • The alleged link between vaccines and “autism” is pure bunk. The medical community in the late 1990s redefined “autism” so that only one of the criteria must be met, rather than all of them. Of course this statistical sleight-of-hand resulted in an increase in the number of cases.

    Thimerosal is a mercury-containing (Oh, No! Mercury!) compound that was once used as a preservative in vaccines, in order to prevent staph bacteria from growing in them. That said, thimerosal does not metabolize into methyl mercury, but ethyl mercury instead, which has a very short residence time in the human body. Thimerosal also has not been used as a vaccine preservative since June-July 2000. If your grandson is younger than 13, “mercury” in the vaccines can not possibly be responsible for his autism.

    I am really (moderated) sick of people using third-grade science to justify their pathologically superstitious whining about vaccines.

  • Jesse_from_Sweden

    As I wrote above, eradicating a disease means we benefit as well, since it means we no longer have to vaccinate against it, decreasing cost and removing potential side effects of vaccine.

    Or do you enjoy giving your kids shots and paying for millions upon millions of vaccinations in the west which would be made superfluous by simply eradicating the disease altogether?

  • Jesse_from_Sweden

    Some vaccines have been troublesome, especially those that have been pushed out hurriedly to counter an “impending pandemic”. Which means they simply haven’t had the time to fully test them.

    But things like Polio vaccine that has been around for years have however been thoroughly tested, and will only cause problems if there is something unknown for it to interact with (like rare genetic diseases, or another medical drug etc).

  • I used to be the best research chemist in the world in the microelectronics industry, with 79 US and foreign patents awarded. Working with “dangerous” chemicals was my forte.