UK daily, The Guardian, has accused Pakistani officials of covering up the poliovirus breakout. The reports published on Thursday, November 7th, leveled serious allegations on Pakistani officials to hide the breakout of poliovirus among children to maneuver the statistics on polio cases in Pakistan.
Pakistan accused of cover-up over fresh polio outbreak https://t.co/sRY0clhGvH
— The Guardian (@guardian) November 7, 2019
The Guardian cites witnessing the documents and a source from Pakistan’s Polio Eradication Program to back its accusation against Pakistani officials. The report in question asserted Pakistani officials deliberately hid ‘an outbreak of the most dangerous strain of polio and planning a covert vaccination program to contain the disease’.
Not sure how much of this is true, but with such an explosive story, why didnt the Guardian publish any of this documentation that they claim corroborates their story? Absolute disaster if even some of this true.https://t.co/iKgPDLnKW6
— Shaheryar Mirza (@mirza9) November 8, 2019
The P2 strain had been completely eradicated from Pakistan but surfaced again last year. According to the report, the new cases were allegedly kept hidden from the government and international donors, including the UK’s Department for International Development under the special orders from the former focal person Babar bin Atta, to hide incompetence and ineptness.
Babar bin Atta had been evicted from his post following the charges of corruption. Guardian claims the virus was reemerged because of the misuse of the polio vaccine.
Read more: Authorities in KPK and Sindh are determined to make Pakistan polio-free
“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,” the report quoted the source as saying.
Under Pakistani law, every new polio case has to be registered with the government, which also alerts the international bodies on the incidence of the virus in the country.
“But to hide their negligence and their poor performance, Babar Bin Atta decided not to disclose the cases to anyone,” said the source.
The Poliovirus exists in three strains P1, P2, and P3, with P2 being the most vicious and dangerous strain since it consists of a live strain of the disease to create immunity.
The Guardian claims after the elimination of P2 strain, all the vaccines would have been collectively removed from all the hospitals and clinics and carefully disposed of. However, this did not happen, and the vaccine was accidentally administered and a child got infected with the virus.
Government’s Secret Campaign
The source has further claimed that a ‘secret’ polio eradication campaign will be launched in Rawalpindi for the containment of the disease. Only the senior member of the polio program will be aware of the P2 campaign, with others even those who will be leading the camping are made to believe that the campaign deals with P1 and P3 polio vaccination program.
“This P2 outbreak can only be contained if they do a quality vaccination campaign, and how can you do a quality campaign if you are carrying it out in secret, without any awareness or accountability?” the report quoted the source.
89/ Absolutely no coverup. Sabin-like type 2 derived virus outbreak in Pakistan is vigilantly being monitored & appropriately responded. Such outbreaks are being reported from countries even after Polio eradication e.g. Nigeria, China, Indonesia, Congo. https://t.co/2P3GVpMKPs
— Zafar Mirza (@zfrmrza) November 8, 2019
Pakistan has recorded a surge in the polio cases since August 2018, with senator Aisha Farooq, who served as Prime Minister’s focal person on polio eradication from 2013-2018, repeatedly complaining that PM Khan had refused to entertain the complaints against Babar bin Atta for the past 10 months. She asserted that the incapability of bin Atta has reversed major achievements gained in Polio eradication.
Pakistan alongside Afghanistan is one of the two countries to be affected by the Poliovirus.
Dr. Zafar Mirza, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on health and focal person for Polio program have denounced the Guardian reports and asserted that there has been no cover up on the new polio cases.
“[There has been] absolutely no cover-up,” Dr. Mirza responded to the story in a tweet earlier today.
Read more: Polio cases on the rise in KPK: What is the way forward?
“This is not a wild poliovirus outbreak. It is an outbreak of the Sabin-Like Type 2 Derived (SLT2D) [strain],” he said. “Similar outbreaks [of SLT2D] have been recently reported in the Philippines, China, Indonesia, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo and several other countries in Africa which have [otherwise] completely eradicated the poliovirus.”
“SLT2D virus outbreak in Pakistan is vigilantly being monitored and appropriately responded,” he assured in a tweet.
Babar bin Atta Rejects Allegations
Babar bin Atta also denied the allegations in a separate tweet. He called the allegations ‘ baseless’.
I am myself surprised, I really liked the Guardian, my phone is working … if she had made a contact I would have explained that these were 07 cVDPVs & not Wild P2 cases. Wild cases need go in annual tally as its a Global (WPV) Eradication Programme. https://t.co/nqKhaX3Lxx
— Babar Atta (@babarbinatta) November 7, 2019
“The Guardian report is absolutely baseless. I am writing to them to correct the record and issue an apology, failing which I shall pursue my legal options. I shall be sending relevant documents to @guardian to prove their ‘He Said – She Said’ report wrong. Enough of this slander,” he said in a tweet.
He highlighted that reporter Hanna Ellis Petersen is based in Delhi and that she had not contacted him to comment on the matter. He has decided to challenge the story.