More than 450 parents in northwestern Pakistan have been arrested by the police for refusing polio vaccinations for the children, officials have stated. The deputy commissioner of Peshawar, Riaz Khan Mehsud, claims that 471 parents have been detained, and have been sent to jail for refusing to vaccinate their children against the virus.
Pakistan is one of the three countries in the world where polio is endemic, and years of efforts to eradicate it have been proved futile due to several reasons including reluctance from parents, militant opposition and attacks on the immunisation teams.
The country’s northwest region is where the virus is most prevalent and prominently hit, and the immunisation drive had begun on Monday with the aim of vaccination over 2.7 million children in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa region.
The government has apparently declared war on polio last year, and Mehsud and his officials claim that they would accept no refusal from parents.
“There is no mercy, we have decided to deal with the refusal cases with iron hands. Anyone who refuses (the vaccine) will be sent to jail,” Mehsud said.
It is believed that those who were arrested on Monday belonged to the suburban areas of Peshawar, where militant groups normally attack police and polio workers, and these are the regions where the opposition the vaccination is quite strong.
The authorities have issued 1000 blank arrest warrants to deal with those refusing to allow the vaccination process. A senior official by the name of Muhammad Mumtaz confirmed the arrests and said that those detained would “be freed only after a written assurance and providing two guarantors” to make sure that their children are vaccinated.
It is believed that the Taleban militants state that the polio vaccination drive is actually a conspiracy to sterilize Muslims. Following the recruitment of a Pakistani doctor to set up a hepatitis immunisation drive to track down Osama Bin Laden, the attacks have been stepped up.
In the last year, the number of polio cases recorded have in Pakistan have soared up to 306, which is the highest in 14 years. Nine new cases have been detected in the year 2015 already.