Taliban militants in the former tourist destination of Swat Valley have obstructed officials from vaccinating over 300,000 children, reports The Telegraph. Militants have seized control of most of Swat and its capital, Mingora, and have extended their rule since striking a peace deal with the government and army earlier this year.
"There is a real emergency there. It is urgent to go in and vaccinate children," the paper quoted Dr. Nima Abid, the Polio Team leader from the World Health Organisation in Pakistan, as saying.
Extremist clerics have used mosque loudspeakers and illegal radio stations to spread the idea that the vaccinations cause infertility and are part of a US-sponsored anti-Muslim plot.
"Polio vaccination is effective in first three months of the year when virus transmission is lowest and so there is no interference with the vaccine virus," said Dr Abid.
"It's a US tool to cut the population of the Muslims. It is against Islam that you take a medicine before the disease", said, Muslim Khan, Swat's Taliban spokesman, speaking by telephone.
Swat had recorded four cases of polio last year of the total 53 recorded by NWFP and the tribal areas. Pakistan had 118 cases in 2009.
The WHO recorded 39 cases of polio in Pakistan in 2006, up from 28 in 2005. The disease is concentrated in NWFP where 60 percent of the refusals were attributed to "religious reasons".