Due to the failure of the government and military to protect health workers, Pakistan has taken one step closer to status as a global pariah. This week, the World Health Organisation has recommended placing global travel restrictions on all Pakistanis due to legitimate fears of spreading the deadly polio virus which was previously eliminated in almost the entire world. In response, the government has announced that it will establish mandatory immunisation counters on all airports, border crossings and seaports. This is foolishness that calls into question whether the government has any idea what it is doing.
Mandatory vaccination points at airports is foolish for several simple and obvious reasons. Let us begin with the basic facts of how polio vaccinations are administered.
The primary series consisting of 3 OPV doses plus 1 IPV dose can be initiated from the age of 6 weeks with a minimum interval of 4 weeks between the OPV doses.
Does the government expect everyone to travel to airports minimum of three times over a period of three months before they are allowed to board the plane? Ridiculous.
It’s obvious that this is more of the government offering yet another policy of mere window dressing instead of an actual policy to eliminate the deadly virus. It demonstrates a level of incompetence that is scary.
But even if the Ministry of Health has discovered a magic polio drop that works with just one dosage, let us also consider whether such a policy would eliminate the threat of the virus, or whether it would create a nation within a nation.
By vaccinating only those who are traveling, the government would be protecting the health and the lives of the top of society – those with the money and connections to travel abroad. The rest of Pakistanis – the vast majority in fact – would be abandoned to their fate. And what, dear reader, do you expect the reaction to be when we have become a nation whose inequalities are visible not only in the sad condition of the masses compared to their more fortunate counterparts in the middle and upper classes, but when we literally cripple the underclasses, removing their very possibility of working to improve their lives?
We don’t need a phony policy of immunisation counters at airports, we need the government and the military to take seriously the fact that our country is facing a health crisis of unprecedented proportions. Like many of our problems, we have continued to ignore the threat of polio hoping that it will work itself out over time. But the world is not willing to sacrifice their own children so that we can avoid responsibility for our own. It’s time to treat the polio epidemic for what it is – an existential crisis.