Polio Vaccination in Third World – Savior or Killer?

For decades, polio vaccination in poor and underdeveloped countries has been presented as a message of hope for millions of children across the world who otherwise would risk contracting the paralyzing disease. However, there always have been concerns about the safety of this vaccine and cases of children paralyzed by this same vaccine have been reported off and on from various parts of the world. What a recent report in India revealed raises serious concern as well as doubts about the effectiveness and safety of the polio vaccine given orally to children.

This report from India, posted online in January this year, holds the oral polio vaccine as currently the number one cause of polio in children in India. A startling 100 to 180 cases of polio are reported in India each year among children who have been vaccinated with the polio vaccine orally. By the report’s account, this is 3 to 4 times higher a figure than polio cases caused by the wild polio virus. This report has refreshed the 2007 paralysis epidemic in Nigeria – one that was traced to this same vaccine.

Most revealing, though, is the fact that this oral vaccine was banned in US in the year 2000! When concerns were raised due to repeated incidence of paralysis caused by the orally administered polio vaccine in US, and abroad, the US government switched to the injectable version of the vaccine, which unlike the oral version is said to contain a “dead” polio virus. Obviously the question arises why something banned in the US over health risk is given to hundreds of millions of kids in poor countries. And not just given, but forcibly so!

It is important to note here that despite the increasing reportage of polio cases caused in children after they are vaccinated with the oral vaccine against polio, some developing countries like Pakistan are forcing the public into vaccinating children with this fluid from carrying the so-called “weakened” polio virus. With 107 of the 136 recent polio cases were kids who had been vaccinated earlier for polio. Now the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has also pointed to the possibility of this vaccine causing polio in those it is given to. But the Pakistani government is bent on “punishing” the families that refuse to let their kids take this “weakened” virus down their throats.

It goes without saying that self-interested media in Pakistan, and maybe in other developing countries also, won’t give any coverage to the reported heath threat – paralysis of a lifetime – associated with the polio vaccine given as oral drops. On the contrary, advertisements for polio vaccination campaign all over the media outlets. How much is involved and who gets what are questions left to investigative journalists to probe. What is on record is a range of research studies linking the polio vaccine not only to paralysis but to cancer. Indeed, it is high time to ask the ever-brewing question: why something banned in US as dangerous is standard in the third world as safety?


Image: koratmember / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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