Maharashtra: Polio returns as Muslims refuse vaccine

If Maharashtra had a 'clean' report card with no new polio case in 2009, this January saw a 2-and-a-half-year- old being detected with P-1 strain of the virus.

Mohammed Qasim Ahmed, the victim, hails from a family which figures among those who have constantly refused vaccination due to religious beliefs. Dr Bharat Wagh, Medical Officer of Health, Malegaon Municipal Corporation, admitted that several families among Muslims continued to refuse vaccination against polio.

According to Wagh, Mohammed's family had given the child only two doses of polio during the national immunisation round. "There were 10 rounds in high-risk areas, but the child was not given the dose during those rounds," said Wagh, adding that exposure to the two rounds of polio meant that the child had developed immunity which led to a mild polio attack with residual paralysis in the leg.

While a total of 98,839 children were administered polio doses on February 7 at Malegaon, health officers registered refusal to immunise from 566 families belonging to the minority community. Another round on March 21 saw a total of 99,678 children getting immunised at Malegaon, and the number of

the families continuing to refuse vaccination was put at 331, according to Wagh. Data was being collected for the April 25 round.

Wagh pointed out that the refusal to vaccinate against polio stemmed from various traditional beliefs, including one that it causes impotency. The Malegaon health officials have launched a massive awareness drive which includes holding meetings at madrasas and talking to Muslim clerics.

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