27 January 2007

Health officials in Pakistan have failed to immunise over 160,000 children against polio due to rumours that the vaccine causes sexual impotence – according to the BBC.

The World Health Organisation has been leading a campaign to eradicate polio in Pakistan which, with 39 cases, is one of the last few nations where the disease is still endemic . However, there has been significant opposition to the eradication drive in the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan from Muslim clerics who run illegal FM radio channels. One cleric, Maulana Fazlullah, has been reported as telling his listeners the vaccination drive was "a conspiracy of the Jews and Christians to stunt the population growth of Muslims". Such anti vaccine propaganda seems to have reduced take up of the vaccine. In addition there appear to have been instances where vaccination teams have been beaten up by villagers.

This is not the first time that unfounded fears about the polio vaccine have jeapordised efforts to eradicate the disease - there were similar fears in Nigeria a few years ago. Reassurances and laboratory tests that prove the polio vaccine is free from any anti fertility agent cut no ice with the anti vaccine propagandists.

According to the WHO, the annual incidence of polio worldwide has fallen from 350,000 cases in 1988 to 1,902 in 2006. This sort of idiotic and dangerous propaganda impedes progress in wiping the disease off the face of the earth. On the other hand this sort of fool, who see one more child with polio as one less “islamofascist”, needs to realise that if you don’t eradicate it in places like Pakistan it will return to other nations (let alone the inherent heartlessness of the viewpoint).

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