More than 1,000 families from Malegaon had refused to let health workers administer pulse polio drops to their children during the national immunisation round on January 10 even as doctors diagnosed an 18-month-old boy from the area with suspected polio.
The stool test reports, which came earlier this week, confirmed that Kafin Ahmed is infected with the P1 strain.
The state health department is now studying the reasons for resistance to immunisation in the Muslim-dominated town. There have been reports of resistance to polio drops in the Muslim community in several states in the past.
“Malegaon is one of the high risk areas in Maharashtra for wild polio virus but families refuse the vaccine. Ahmed’s parents had refused twice. Once they said he is unwell and the next time that he is not home,” said Dr Ashok Ladda, additional director of the State Directorate of Health Services.
“We are studying the reasons for refusal so we can plan information education and communication material accordingly. We will identify influential people like religious leaders to help us change the mindset,” added Dr Ladda. “We are also trying to develop interpersonal communication skills of our own health workers.”
On Sunday, around 62,000 children in Nashik district were given the monovalent P1 polio vaccine. In the rest of the state, the trivalent polio vaccine was given to children (under five years) as per the Centre’s programme.
“The government made special provision and sent stocks of P1 vaccine for Nashik district to ensure that other children don’t contract it,” said Dr Ladda.
Health officials said Ahmed is undergoing physiotherapy and his condition is slightly better. Doctors suspected Ahmed had polio as he had flaccid paralysis of lower limbs. His stool sample was sent to Haffkine Institute, Mumbai, for testing. The report received on Wednesday confirmed he was infected.
The state government has decided to conduct an extra round of polio immunisation in March so that all children can be immunised against the P1 strain.