Man arrested for spreading disinformation against anti-polio drive

ISLAMABAD: A man has been arrested for spreading disinformation against ongoing anti-polio drive through his online videos that went viral on social media platforms, particularly Twitter. 

According to multiple media reports, man named Nazar Muhammad is a teacher at a private school near Peshawar city, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, KPK  and was involved in making anti-campaign videos.  Videos circulating online showed him directing students to fake their illness. He linked it to the ongoing polio drops administered to children.

It is to be noted that on Monday, the government launched a nationwide polio campaign to  administer polio drops to around 39 million children. Around 1.6 million children were to be administered polio drops in Peshawar city alone.

These videos began circulating from Monday at a time when at least 75 children were admitted to a hospital in Peshawar.  They were complaining of nausea, headache and abdominal pain after being administered polio drops.  However, doctors released them soon noting that they were in stable condition. This was enough to spread panic among the populace that has shown resistance towards getting their children vaccinated.  Some religious clerics  have long been suspicious of polio vaccine and even called  it a conspiracy by West to sterilize Muslims.

Later, enraged mob destroyed a local health unit. Clerics had reportedly warned people against vaccinating their children using loud speakers. Around 25000 children  were brought to different hospitals amidst the scare.

However, government officials and World Health Organization Chief insisted that children could not be affected owing to polio vaccines.  WHO country chief for polio eradication Abdi Mahamud noted that he personally went to different hospitals in Peshawar and noted that the scare had nothing to do with vaccine safety, but rather “panic and hysteria.” He added that half a million children had been vaccinated in the city successfully.

Furthermore,  talking to Geo News, Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) Coordinator Kamran Afridi said, “There can be no reaction to the anti-polio vaccine. The vaccine was not expired and the condition of all the children is normal.” He further added:  “Doctors also said the children did not get a reaction from the vaccine. There are parents in Masho Khel who do not want to administer the drops to their children and they could have felt sick owing to other reasons.”

Meanwhile, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Health Minister Hisham Inamullah Khan reinforced that the polio vaccine was safe. In a video message, he stated that polio vaccine administered to children in Peshawar were thoroughly tested in laboratories and found safe for use. He added that medical and blood tests of ailing students had been taken and no reaction due to vaccine was found.



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