Pakistan Gets Serious About Polio: Parents Who Refused Vaccination Arrested

As the debate about vaccination in America rolls on, Pakistan cracks down — hundreds of parents who refuse vaccination against Polio for their children have been arrested. The parents are being charged with endangering public security and will be released once they agree to have their children receive the vaccination.

Only yesterday, the Inquisitr reported that arrest warrants had been issued for parents who refuse the Polio vaccine, and reports now say that these warrants are being carried out, with 470 people reportedly arrested so far. There are more arrests to come.

In America, Polio is thought to be a disease of the past, thanks to the development of a vaccination for the disease developed by Jonas Salk in the early 1950’s. However, before Polio vaccination was available, children died or were left paralyzed, and there are still adults in America today who suffer partial paralysis or other remnants of a bout with Polio.

In some parts of the world, though, Polio is not a disease of the past. According to the CDC, it still spreads in Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan. There is no cure for Polio, but vaccination is safe and effective.

In countries where the effects of vaccine-preventable diseases like Polio are easily seen, parents do not refuse vaccination at the rates we see in America, where it’s easy to forget how devastating Polio once was. According to Vaccine Ambassadors, in many areas where these preventable diseases are killing children, parents will walk miles to procure a vaccination to protect their child.

In Peshawar, however, vaccination has become a new battleground. According to the BBC, Taliban forces attempt to prevent people from being vaccinated, and have attacked health workers offering vaccines.

There are several possible reasons a parent in Pakistan would refuse vaccination. One may be propaganda spread by the Taliban, or simple fear of attacks by the Taliban, which has killed people during vaccine campaigns. Some parents fear that vaccination is a secret plot from Western countries to sterilize their children. There also may be some effects from the same propaganda and discredited studies that have led so many American parents to refuse vaccines.

However, Pakistani officials aren’t taking it lightly. The BBC reports that nearly 500 parents have been arrested, and will not be released until they promise, in writing, to have their children vaccinated.

Pervez Kamal, Director of Health for one region of Pakistan, talked to Al-Jazeera.

“There was no other option. We have run so many awareness campaigns for the parents and general masses that there is no harm in the vaccine, but to no avail.”

He also says that they aren’t done. There are reported to be around 60,000 children in the area who have not received the Polio vaccine, and attempts are underway to arrest more parents who refuse vaccination for their kids.

[Photo by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images]