“Truth” and “accuracy” are the words stricken out of the mainstream media’s policy of reporting when it comes to the business of vaccination. This blog will briefly debunk such a lie, or what apologists will conveniently tailor to an error, relating an update on polio vaccination in Pakistan.
The Pakistani paper Express Tribune in its January 5th edition published a story Pakistan records drastic drop in polio cases. Like other stories of this and other Pakistani papers, the story presented a jumble of data to make a vaccine success story that has become a cliché now in poplar media sources around the world. Besides official, pharmaceutical-driven groundless claims like “all countries remain at risk of importing the wild poliovirus” if polio wasn’t eradicated in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the paper included a ridiculous quote from a doctor named Dr Rana Muhammad Safdar, who is credited as the “emergency coordinator of Polio Eradication Pakistan.”
The doctor has been quoted as:
“Only one attack on polio workers was reported in 2015, whereas there were around 20 to 30 in 2013-14,” he said. “It has really helped boost the morale of the polio workers.”
Those keeping an eye on the polio and vaccine business news in the country wouldn’t glide over this statement without a moment of speculation. While we were offered several reports of attacks on polio teams and polio workers/vaccinators throughout 2015, the new claim of “only one attack in 2015” creates multiple flashbacks from the Pakistani and international media that reported attacks on polio workers. Here are some glimpses of such attacks that have been reported in most widely read sources in and out of Pakistan:
January 26, 2015 – Dawn reported the gunning down of a policeman guarding a polio team in Karachi.
February 17, 2015 – BBC reported abduction and subsequent killing of four polio workers in Balochistan province of Pakistan.
February 17, 2015 – Khyber News reported aerial firing by a father in Sawt as a warning to scare the polio team away from his home when they arrived there to vaccinate his children. Though he didn’t fire directly at the team but nevertheless it was an armed effort to deter polio workers, whether one calls it an attack or not.
March 17, 2015 – Dawn published a story on the killing of two women polio workers in Mansehra, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The attack also killed a police guard providing security to the team.
March 18, 2015 – Dawn published a story on the killing of a polio worker by an attack on a polio team in Bajaur Agency, which is a tribal area in Pakistan close to Afghanistan border.
May 19, 2015 – A lady health worker and a police official were injured in Mardan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, when their polio vaccination team was attacked by a shooter as reported Express Tribune.
And these are only some of the news stories I accessed by 15 minutes of google searching for 2015 attacks on polio teams. Google of course searches through English language content and does not include many locally reported news sources rife with such attacks. Even the above list shows multiple attacks on polio teams in 2015 in Pakistan. So what does Dr Rana Muhammad Safdar really mean when he says there’s been only one such attack?
Sadly, Pakistani ministers don’t care who is attacked or whether any project runs smoothly or safely. As long as they keep their office and enjoy others’ money to pay for their lack of knowledge and care, they are fine with the status quo.
At the same time, mainstream media sources also promote falsities and frauds by running press releases and official statements as “news” without fact-checking. The above quoted example is just one glimpse of such slack reporting.