Afghanistan launches massive polio vaccination campaign

Islamabad, Feb. 26, (dpa/GNA) – Afghanistan launched a new polio vaccination campaign on Monday aimed at protecting around 7.6 million children under the age of five, the Health Ministry announced.

The campaign will last four days in 21 of the country’s 34 provinces, the ministry added.

Health Ministry spokesman Dr Sharafat Zaman asked the religious scholars and local elders to cooperate with the vaccine providers to fight against polio, an infectious disease that can cause paralysis and lead to death.

The number of positive polio cases has decreased this year, the spokesman said. Last year, at least six cases of the wild type of poliovirus were detected nationwide.

In December, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that the repatriation of migrants from neighbouring Pakistan has heightened the risk of spreading the virus. Since then, the country has conducted at least two rounds of nationwide vaccinations.

Vaccination campaigns in Afghanistan and Pakistan often encounter difficulties due to conspiracy theories that the polio vaccination causes infertility or that people giving the vaccines are spies.

Before seizing power of the entire country in August 2021, the Taliban had banned door-to-door vaccinations in the areas they controlled. But the United Nations successfully negotiated with them to resume the vaccination programme across the country after their return to power.