10 February, 2011

Immunization Bill proposed

Published in Pakistan Observer (10 Feb. 2011)
Sana Jamal

ISLAMABAD: Keeping in view the poor state of immunization in Pakistan, a draft bill has been proposed by civil society to provide a legal cover to immunization as well as to make it mandatory in Pakistan.
To generate a debate and interaction on the issue, PILDAT arranged a legislative forum on “Critical need to improve Immunization in Pakistan and the Draft Compulsory Immunization Bill” on Wednesday at local hotel in Islamabad in which Parliamentarians and MPAs participated.

The parliamentarians believed that the Draft Compulsory Immunization Bill is a good initiative to make immunization compulsory in Pakistan and suggested that respective Governments should table the bill in the Parliament and Provincial Assemblies for review and adoption by the legislators.

The speakers at the PILDAT Legislative Forum included Chaudhry Anwar ul Haq, Speaker, Legislative Assembly of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK); Rana Mashhood Ahmed Khan, MPA, Deputy Speaker Provincial Assembly of the Punjab; Zameen Khan, MPA, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Provincial Assembly; Dr. Sania Nishtar, Founder President of Pakistan Health Policy Forum, Wazir Ahmed Jogezai, former Deputy Speaker National Assembly and Ms. Fozia Ejaz Khan, MNA and Vice President Parliamentary Caucus on Immunization in the National Assembly.

Rana Mashhood Ahmed Khan said that there is need of “enhanced coordination between Parliament and Provincial Assemblies for effective legislation” of compulsory immunization bill. He suggested that “immunization process should be made confirm before issuing birth certificates.”

Zameen Khan assured that KPK Provincial Assembly will pass the immunization bill as soon it is introduced.
Dr. Sania Nishtar highlighted that “Pakistan is one of the only four countries in the world where polio still exists, and Pakistan is the only country where number of polio cases is rising as seen in 2010.” In FATA and Interior Sindh polio cases have seen an increase which is a cause for concern.
Experts at the conference suggested that to eradicate polio a nation- wide awareness campaign should be launched with effective participation of Parliamentarians and media.

Chaudhry Anwar ul Haq informed that “AJK is polio free area because of the efforts of the AJK government towards ensuring maximum coverage of immunization.” He believed that Compulsory Immunization Bill should be introduced and passed from Parliament and Provincial Assemblies as “it is an important initiative to make immunization compulsory for all.”

Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, Executive Director of PILDAT, said that “PILDAT has facilitated the formation of Immunization Caucuses around 7 National and Provincial Legislatures in order to facilitate public representatives’ awareness and involvement in immunization campaigns.” He said that the objective of the meeting was to generate the much-needed debate on the need to make immunization campaigns more effective in Pakistan.
Fozia Ejaz Khan noted that “immunization teams are less paid and local government system is not helpful which is one of the causes of lack of success of campaigns” and stressed that public representatives should work in their own areas to make immunization campaign successful.