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Govt Accused Of Covering Up Outbreak Of Deadliest Strain Of Polio

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Pakistani government officials have been accused of covering up a renewed outbreak of the deadliest strain of polio virus and planning a covert vaccination programme to counter the disease.

A news report in The Guardian cited a source in Pakistan’s polio eradication programme as revealing that a dozen children had fallen victim to the P2 strain of the polio virus, the most serious one. The strain cause paralysis and effects those under five.

The P2 outbreak was also confirmed by a coordinator of the national emergency operation centre.

The P2 strain had previously been eliminated from Pakistan but new cases were hidden from the government and international donors under direct instruction from the prime minister’s focal representative on polio eradication, Babar Bin Atta. Last month, Atta had resigned after allegations of corruption.

The new cases, which have resulted in paralysis, were discovered mainly in Diamer and Islamabad.

Under the law of the country, new cases have to be officially registered with the government, which is then supposed to alert international health bodies.

The source told media that in order to hide their negligence and their poor performance, Babar Bin Atta decided not to disclose the cases to anyone.

Along with Afghanistan, Pakistan is one of the only two countries in the world that has failed to completely eradicate the disease. The country had witnessed a milestone in 2014 when it officially declared that P2 had been eradicated.

P2 is the most contagious and impactful of the four strains of polio. The source revealed that the outbreak was a result of a mismanagement of vaccines.

When the disease was eliminated five years back, all P2 vaccines were supposed to be collected and not used. Apparently, a P2 vaccine was administered accidentally and a child became a carrier of the disease, with later tests revealing children to be carrying a vaccine-derived form of the disease .

The source stated, “Somewhere, somebody has inaccurately used this vaccine and because of this negligence … this virus was brought back into the environment and our children are again getting infected with P2.”

Moreover, the government has not publicly declared the renewed outbreak and would be beginning a ‘secret’ vaccination campaign on Monday in Rawalpindi and surrounding areas.

Interestingly, only senior members are aware of the P2 campaign, and even those who would be administering the vaccine would be under the impression that the vaccine is a standard P1 and P3 polio vaccination.

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Naya Daur