World Health Organization (WHO)
From a WHO staff person and senior member of the Polio Eradication Initiative in Pakistan, this opinion piece explores, amongst other things, misinformation and rumour, which is a central issue with regard to communication surrounding the oral polio vaccine (OPV) in Pakistan. In his words: "At a time when Pakistan was moving in the right direction towards complete polio eradication, security incidents followed by a series of incorrect media reports in various sections of the press...have seriously jeopardised the recent successes of Pakistan’s fight against polio."
Dr. Durry explains that OPV is necessary for polio eradication; the Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV), on the other hand, protects only the individual. Regions and countries that have eradicated polio shifted to IPV, but whenever there has been an active polio outbreak, even in a polio-free country, many of them immediately revert back to OPV for halting virus circulation. Apparently, there has been some confusion about the difference between these two vaccines, leading to some distrust.
According to an estimate, polio teams in Pakistan regularly miss over 500,000 children during every national polio round. Dr. Durry says that "Pakistan is still at a serious risk of resurgence of polio if quality vaccination activities are not conducted using the viable oral polio vaccine. Unnecessarily raising questions about the vaccine will seriously divert attention from the main focus, hence further depriving the innocent children of Pakistan from preventable lifelong paralysis. All of us - as parents, as members of the community, civil society, notables and influential - have a moral obligation towards the children of Pakistan."
The Express Tribune. Image credit: WHO/H. Everts