Refusing Polio drops in Assam, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh
I worked for 4 and a half years in Polio Surveillance and eradication in Jharkhand and Bihar. The first rumour about the vaccine was spread by BBC on their weekly Hindi Science programme in 2000. This news (of a scientific conference in England) was relayed via English magazines in Kolkata to a Hindi publication called Aye Saawan, This magazine article was copied in Jamui and widely circulated in September (just after Bol Baam). I remember going with a friend (now studying in USA- but he has worked with UNICEF for a year or two in Jharkhand) to a well to do Rajput village in Banka (Bihar) to persuade them to lift their Polio boycott. We even followed one child with his father to the neighbouring Munger District (crossing the Kanwaria route). So please do not claim that refusal is directly linked to religion or illiteracy- it is misinformation and how long the misinformation remains (in a literate or radio listening population it can be corrected by a newspaper or radio-while -misinformation at an annual festival will take a year to correct in an illiterate population).
In Assam christian Garo tribals have refused Polio in 2005-6. In Bangladesh Hindu minorities refuse government vaccines! The connection is not religion- it is the fact that they are cultural minorities, who either do not understand the local government announcement (Ahomiya or Bengali in Assam) or mistrust them (in Banka in 2000 and Bangladesh)
Dr Prabir Chatterjee
India is progressing towards eradication of the disease and the proof is that India has reported just 136 cases of polio so far this year and fewer families are now opposing the immunisation drive.
Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad in a written reply informed the Rajya Sabha that till July 17, only 136 children were found infected with the polio virus against 559 in the entire 2008. Of the number so far in 2009, 97 are from Uttar Pradesh and 34 from Bihar. Delhi with three cases, and Rajasthan and Uttarakhand with one each are the other three states where polio cases have been detected this year.
"In order to remove the prejudices among communities against polio drops, efforts through mass media and inter-personal communication are being made by the polio partners in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar," Azad said. "The number of households overtly refusing oral polio vaccine is the lowest ever, and the resistance is now more sporadic and significantly less," the minister said.
"In May 2009, less than 0.1 % of the 3.3 crore households in Uttar Pradesh and less than 0.1 % of the 1.59 crore households in Bihar refused vaccination," he added.
Refusal by families to allow their children to be given the vaccine was blamed partially in parts of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh for the large number of cases in this part of country. Some people harbour a prejudice that polio drops can lead to impotency in children during adulthood.
India is one among the few countries in the world that is has polio cases.
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