Quetta (AsiaNews) - Religious leaders and Muslim scholars have publically stated that the polio vaccine does not go against the precepts of Islam and reflects the practices of the Sunna.
The announcement was made after a meeting organized by the Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) in Quetta, the capital of Belochistan.
The conference - which was attended by members of the WHO and the UNICEF Polio team - was chaired by the provincial coordinator of the center, Dr. Saifur Rehman, who explained to the ulema [Islamic religious scholars ed] the risk that a refusal to take the vaccine means to new generations.
Pakistan is one of three countries in the world where polio is still "endemic". In 2014 there were 306 cases, the highest number recorded in the last 14 years. There are at least 13 confirmed cases so far this year, concentrated in the northwest of the country.
During the latest round of vaccinations, parents of more than 21 thousand children have refused treatment, 21% on religious grounds. They fear impure substances being introduced into their bodies. The ulema were asked to play an active role in raising awareness about the problem, especially in the "Quetta block ", an area of high risk of infection including the cities of Quetta, Pishin and Qila Abdullah.
Dr. Attaur Rehman, one of Pakistan's most respected chemists, attended the meeting and noted: "We discussed this issue with spiritual leaders and religious scholars worldwide. Now - he said - you can not even make the Haji [ed pilgrimage] to Mecca without being vaccinated”.
Maulana Anwarul Haqqani cites several examples of the life of the Prophet Muhammad that show that there should be no compromise on the issues of health and preventive measures must be taken to prevent epidemics. "Islam allows us to protect our children and future generations from harmful diseases - said the religious leader - and if there are preventive measures, then they must be adopted."
The ulema have launched appeals for the polio vaccine during Ramadan, the feast of Id al-Fitr, and continue to do so during Friday prayers.
Pakistan remains a strong prejudice against vaccines. In 2012 the government blocked the distribution of medicines anti polio to 250 thousand children after threats from some Taliban groups. The terrorists claim the vaccinations are a pretext to sterilize Muslim children, and they accuse health workers of being spies in the pay of the United States.
After international pressure, last March the Pakistani authorities arrested more than 470 parents and issued a warrant for the arrest of hundreds of others, for opposing the polio vaccination campaign for their children.