The government of Pakistan has asked Facebook to remove videos from its site that allege that vaccines are a conspiracy against Muslims, confirmed Prime Minister’s focal person on Polio, Babar bin Atta.
He further stated, “We have taken Director General of World Health Organisation (WHO) Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations on board and also started efforts to involve other UN agencies to completely eradicate those videos from Facebook and YouTube.”
In response to a query Atta stated that the US health departments had held campaigns against anti-vaxxers after an outbreak of measles in the US and it was observed that a number of parents had fallen prey to the anti-vaccine videos on social media and hadn’t gotten their children vaccinated.
Anti-vaxxer is a person opposed to vaccination, typically a parent who does not wish to vaccinate their children.
Babar bin Atta further stated:
This [development] created an opportunity for us as well because a number of videos are shared on social media claiming that the vaccines are haram or they are used as a conspiracy against Muslims. We have decided to make all-out efforts to get those videos removed from social media. In a meeting with Pakistan Telecommunication Authority chairman retired Maj Gen Amir Azeem Bajwa last week, I sought PTA’s support to address the issue.
In a meeting held by the mobile phone companies, they decided to send a message to their customers, raising awareness about the polio vaccine and why it was crucial in protecting children from the crippling disease. The focal person on Polio said the companies had decided this as a part of their Corporate Social Responsibility.
A toll-free number is going to be set up with 50 experts who will respond to questions of the callers regarding the polio vaccine. The number could also be used to report missing children during the vaccination campaigns and the polio programme would reimburse the caller, he stated.
In the meeting with the PTA chairman, the use of social media to further propaganda against vaccines was also discussed according to Atta.
He added, “Facebook has informed the PTA that they cannot delete the videos, but have agreed to limit reach to these videos in Pakistan. However, we are insisting that those videos should be completely removed as the future of a new generation is at stake due to those videos and messages.”
Pakistan is one of the only three countries in the world where poliovirus hasn’t been eradicated and to this day continues to paralyze children. Whilst the tireless efforts to combat the virus has brought the number of cases from tens of thousands to 20 in 2016 and 8 in 2017.
Sadly, last year 12 children were reported positive for the virus and during the first quarter of this year, around 4 cases have already been reported.