Several school students in Pakistan's Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province reportedly fell ill and were taken to hospital after being administered anti-polio drops during a nation-wide campaign on Monday, sparking violent protests by the parents and relatives who ransacked a local health facility, according to a media report.
Pakistan is one of the three countries, along with Afghanistan and Nigeria, where polio is still endemic. It launched a country-wide campaign on Monday to administer anti-polio drops 39 million children under five years of age.
More than 260,000 polio workers have been deployed to administer anti-polio vaccines to children in all four provinces as well as Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan.
Dozens of students of schools in Mashokhel in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa were rushed for medical attention because they felt unwell after being administered the polio vaccine, the Express Tribune reported.
While the schools administration and the parents accused the polio vaccine for the students' ill-health, officials associated with Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa's Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) and other health departments rejected it, saying it is the safest vaccine.
"The anti-polio vaccine is the safest vaccine that has protected millions of children from disabilities. The polio vaccine is administered to millions of children in every polio campaign in the country without any adverse effects," EOC Coordinator Capt (retd) Kamran Afridi was quoted as saying.
Rejecting the reports on various media outlets linking the children''s condition with the vaccine, he said, "It was reported that children from two private schools in Peshawar fell sick due to the polio vaccine but that is not true. The children are in stable condition."
He also said that the stock of the vaccine had been checked by health officials and was found to be safe and effective.
"The same vaccine stock was used in other areas too and was found to be completely effective with no adverse effects," he said.
Despite efforts, Pakistan has not been able to completely eliminate the disease. Six cases of polio have been reported so far in 2019. Twelve cases were reported in 2018 and eight in 2017.
Attempts to eradicate the crippling disease have been seriously hampered by deadly targeting of vaccination teams in recent years by militants, who oppose the drives, claiming the polio drops cause infertility.
Attacks on immunisation teams have claimed 68 lives since December 2012.
Earlier this month, member of a polio monitoring team was gunned down on Monday by a man after a verbal brawl during a campaign at a village near Pak-Afghan border.
Afridi said that the schools whose students have reported fallen ill after getting administered polio drops had previously refused to allow their pupils to be vaccinated.
Soon after the reports of students falling ill appeared, violent protests broke out in Mashokhel and demonstrators ransacked a Basic Health Unit in the area, the report said.
Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Mehmood Khan sought a report from the officials.
Earlier, national coordinator of polio eradication programme Rana Safdar urged people to cooperate with polio teams to administer the drops to their children to fight against this crippling disease.