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article imageOp-Ed: Pakistan — Polio vaccinator beaten for being insistent

By Ernest Dempsey     Oct 26, 2014 in World
Lahore - Is it socially or ethically appropriate for a vaccine administrator to argue with a parent who doesn't want to let their child get a vaccine?
A recent incident of a brawl over polio vaccination in Lahore, Punjab province of Pakistan, has given rise to the question of ethics of vaccination work. Shall vaccine administrators insist on vaccinating a child or argue with the parents or guardians should the latter refuse to allow vaccination of their child?
The Express Tribune reported Wednesday, October 22, on the confrontation between a polio vaccination worker Rukhsana Shehzad and the family of a child she meant to vaccinate as part of her job. Mobile polio workers in Pakistan go door-to-door to administer an oral vaccine (OPV) to children younger than five years.
When the family of the child refused to let their child be vaccinated, Shehzad reportedly argued with them and “insisted on administering polio drops.” The quarrel got physical as men from the family of the child beat Shehzad.
Women in Pakistani society are generally seen as a weaker gender and thus traditionally, at least in theory, worthy of respect. Beating them or being mean to them is considered a sign of cowardice on behalf of men, although this happens more often than not, particularly within families. But beating a woman who came to do her job was too much and the men were reported to the police, as well as subsequently arrested.
There is no question that what the men did was wrong and should be punished. However, the important question regarding polio vaccination team’s conduct remains: shall they insist on vaccinating a child or even argue with a family that has refused to cooperate with them?
The answer is pretty obvious: no — polio workers have no right to argue with a family or lecture a family on vaccination against their will. Going to someone’s house and asking for their time to vaccinate their child is an act of mutual understanding and respect. If there is no agreement, the polio workers are not entitled in any way to stay a single moment at the house or interact with the family. It is against good manners, against professionalism, and against rights of privacy of a family.
Vaccination is a recommendation, not a law that can forcibly be implemented on any individual or group. Same goes for advocacy. If someone doesn’t want to talk to you or listen to you and don’t want you in their territory anymore, there is only a single appropriate act to follow: stop talking and leave. Sadly, over the past year and so, polio vaccination has been literally imposed on people, particularly poor people in parts of Pakistan including fear of arrest of parents who refuse to vaccinate their children.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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