Pakistan is one of the only 2 remaining countries where Polio is still a viral endemic. The eradication campaign has been going on since 1974; for about 47 years, and has faced a multitude of challenges for a number of reasons. This year however, we witnessed a fortunate decline of the endemic, with no reports of polio cases in 6 whole months for the first time! Pakistan has gone from being the world’s most polio affected country in 2014 to having zero reported cases in half a year, and that is indeed a very big achievement to be celebrated.
One might wonder what took the campaign so long to be successful, but the truth is, we see the elements that hindered the eradication drive back then even now. The way we see misinformation campaigns and WhatsApp chain mail propaganda regarding Covid vaccines today, we saw in many rampant ways back then. Right wing militant groups went on to spread information such as that vaccines manufactured in the West had haram constituents, which obviously deterred people in need from getting it. Low literacy rates and lack of awareness also played a big role in hindering the process, and propagated misinformed myths such as that the vaccine had harmful impacts. The misinformation was even dangerous enough to lead to several brutal incidents of polio workers getting attacked and murdered, a gruesome impact of seemingly harmless myth circulation.
We see many such trails of misinformation even today while trying to carry out mass immunization against the Coronavirus. There was a viral tik tok clip which showed the vaccine to have made a person ‘magnetic’, while other ridiculous theories also stated that people getting vaccinated would pass away within 2 years. Such kind of absurd data circulates faster than ever now that we have widespread access to social media which allows these myths to travel rapidly. Therefore, we should use our platform wisely and fact-check for ourselves before giving into whatever we read online, in order to rid our nation of the pandemic effectively. Get vaccinated and encourage your family to get vaccinated. Register yourself now at 1166!