Police have arrested more than 500 parents in and around the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar for not allowing their children to get the polio vaccine, an official said Tuesday.
Peshawar Deputy Commissioner Riaz Khan Mehsud told CNN that the 513 arrests took place Monday and Tuesday as part of a government campaign to administer polio vaccines in parts of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
Those arrested will be released on bail if they sign an affidavit stating that they will let their children get vaccinated, according to the deputy commissioner.
Pakistan’s vaccination rate is inordinately low for a number of reasons, including attacks on medical workers, the displacement of people due to ongoing military operations and a lack of trust by some families.
Whatever the reason, the fact that a large number of children are not immunized is having an impact.
Such vaccines are credited with wiping out polio in most parts of the world. But Pakistan is an exception, according to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, a public-private partnership that includes the World Health Organization and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The South Asian nation leads all others in new polio cases in recent years, and has nine of this year’s 10 reported cases.