Religious leaders can play a vital role in countering misconceptions about the polio vaccine and help make the government’s public health initiatives a success: PM Kakar 

Islamabad, December 28, 2023 – Eminent religious leaders from across Pakistan gathered on Thursday in support of polio eradication and pledged solidarity with the Government of Pakistan as it aims to eradicate this disease from the country.

Over 100 prominent religious scholars from across Pakistan participated in the National Ulema Conference, which was held at the PM Secretariat under the leadership of Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar and was organized in conjunction with the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination and Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony.

Special Assistant to the PM on Interfaith Harmony Maulana Tahir Ashrafi, Dr Qibla Ayaz and Peer Hassan Naqeeb were among the several prominent national religious scholars in attendance. The leadership of the Pakistan Polio Programme gave a presentation on the current polio situation in the country and persistent challenges, a panel discussion was also held with religious leaders and the conference culminated in a declaration in support of polio eradication efforts with clerics endorsing the use of the polio vaccine to protect children from this disease.

Speaking on the occasion, Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar said: “Pakistan remains one of only two countries with endemic polio. This is affecting our development and standing in the world. Countries with more complex economic and social problems have eradicated this disease. I see no reason for Pakistan to be left behind.”

The Prime Minister added: “Religious leaders can play a vital role in countering misconceptions and myths about the polio vaccine. I request you to speak about the threat of polio in mosques and religious gatherings and to help parents understand that refusing this essential vaccine is putting children at risk of lifelong disability.”

In his address Federal Minister for Health Dr Nadeem Jan urged religious leaders to join hands with the government for the noble cause of polio eradication, to share accurate information about the benefits of polio vaccination and other vaccines against deadly diseases and create an enabling environment for frontline workers to reach children.

“Our religious teachings stress the importance of the sanctity of life and I appeal to all of you to help us in dispelling false myths and misconceptions regarding the polio vaccine,” he said.  

In his welcome remarks, Federal Health Secretary Iftikhar Ali Shallwani said it is our utmost responsibility to protect our children and to provide them with a disease-free environment.

“We need your support to engage with their communities, address concerns, and encourage vaccination, utilizing religious platforms to advocate for the polio vaccine and its benefits.

At the concluding session, a declaration was issued expressing solidarity with the Polio Programme, declaring that it is parents’ obligation and children’s right to be protected from polio, condemned attacks on polio workers, and urged continued collaboration between the government, religious leaders and media in support of polio eradication.