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Pakistan: risk of polio resurgence as vaccination workers fired

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  • Pakistan: risk of polio resurgence as vaccination workers fired


    Pakistan: risk of polio resurgence as vaccination workers fired
    about 8 hours ago REPORT

    Thank you for your reading and interest in the news Pakistan: risk of polio resurgence as vaccination workers fired and now with details

    Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - In April, 31-year-old polio worker Aman Baluch was fired from his job in the port city of Karachi.

    “It felt like someone had dropped me from the 100th floor of a building,” Mr Baluch told The National. “I felt crushed.”

    Mr Baluch was among quarter of a million polio workers re-deployed to fight the coronavirus outbreak in Pakistan during spring, contributing to a surge in other infectious diseases as the country confronted a rising Covid-19 caseload.

    Since March, he has been on the frontline of the country’s coronavirus response, carrying out contact tracing of infected patients, random testing of households, and fighting misinformation about the virus.

    Despite exposing himself to health risks as a frontline Covid-19 worker, Mr Baluch was laid off in April, a month after Pakistan halted the polio vaccination campaign citing fears that the monthly immunisation programme - which is distributed door to door - might endanger health staff and communities.

    Approximately 4,800 polio workers in Karachi and around 1,900 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province have been fired since the pandemic started, challenging the programme's ability to reach vulnerable children after one of the worst years on record for the vaccine campaign.

    Health officials have since reported a resurgence in fresh polio cases, and the country has already logged 57 polio cases in the first seven months of 2020, up from 43 in the whole of last year.

    Other infectious diseases, including measles and tuberculosis have also seen an uptick in Pakistan in the wake of Covid-19. The lower rate of hospital visits as well as disrupted vaccination programmes due to the pandemic is projected to cause an additional 1.4 million deaths from TB in countries like Pakistan, India, and Kenya by 2025.

    Health officials warn that critical medical staff have also been pulled out of the Covid-19 response due to a restructuring of the polio programme and budget cuts. New cases are exploding in Pakistan, which ranks among the top-ten countries with the fastest-growing daily cases of Covid-19.

    "Firing health workers during the height of the pandemic is unethical – the workers weren't protected and the work they were doing was critical," Dr Alia Haider, a medical doctor affiliated with the Friends of Doctors mutual aid group told The National.

    Not all workers are receiving PPE when going door to door during contact tracing, she said. "They were capable of getting the virus, and they were being put at high risk."...