Parents in Pakistan Face Fines & Jail For Refusing Polio Vaccines For Their Children

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Polio vaccine Pakistan

Under a new law introduced in the Sindh province of Pakistan, parents who refuse to get their children vaccinated against infectious diseases could be jailed or fined.

The legislation was introduced in an attempt to eradicate polio, but it also covers vaccines for diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough (pertussis), measles, mumps and rubella.

The Guardian reports: Parents who do not allow their children to be vaccinated could be sentenced to a month in prison and fined 50,000 Pakistani rupees (£130).

The law, the first of its kind in the country, was signed last week and will come into force this month.

Shazia Marri, a former federal minister of poverty alleviation and social safety from Sindh, said: “This law will be used as a deterrent to end the refusal of vaccination.There have to be some extraordinary measures to ensure this virus [polio] is eradicated from Pakistan.”

“There are multiple reasons that this virus still remains endemic in our country and we need to address all such reasons,” she said.

According to the World Health Organization, Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only countries where polio is endemic. So far this year, Pakistan has registered two wild polio cases, compared with 20 in 2022. No cases have been reported in Sindh this year.

However, more than 62,000 parents, most of them in Sindh province, refused polio vaccinations for their children during the countrywide polio vaccination campaign in January this year.

Anti-vaccination sentiment in Pakistan is deeply rooted. Clerics have spread myths that vaccines are a western conspiracy to sterilise Muslim children. In some areas, vaccinators, who are usually women, have to be escorted by security guards for their safety. Some health workers have been killed.

Junaid Khan, 36, a day labourer and father of five from eastern Karachi, said a law would not compel him to get his children vaccinated against polio. “We don’t trust this vaccine. We see people involved in corruption and other major crimes are roaming free. Why is the government forcing us to vaccinate our children? I will prefer jail over protecting my children from the polio drops.”

Osama Malik, a legal expert in Pakistan, said people had been detained by police for refusing vaccines under the colonial criminal code.

In 2015, authorities in the northern city of Peshawar arrested 471 parents for “endangering public security” by refusing the vaccines, but released them the same day.

During the Covid pandemic, Sindh government employees who refused to be vaccinated against the virus were deducted a month’s salary.

Malik said the new law was “rather harsh”, adding: “It would have been better if monetary inducements were given to the generally poor and semi-literate parents to encourage them to inoculate their children.”

Niamh Harris
About Niamh Harris 14982 Articles
I am an alternative health practitioner interested in helping others reach their maximum potential.