Pakistan faces a new blow to polio eradication efforts and accusations of cover-up after officials confirm the outbreak of tensions that are thought to have been removed.
Seven children have been paralyzed in recent months after being infected by a series of viruses that are thought to have been destroyed, but were previously used in vaccination campaigns.
Officials are accused of trying to quell the plague in the midst of efforts to eradicate a faltering state, with a nearly seven-fold jump in cases since 2018.
A source said in 'The Guardian' that instead of announcing the outbreak, senior officials decided on a secret vaccination campaign to target the tension. The Pakistani government and the World Health Organization (WHO) have denied anything is covered up and said they have waited until the strain was formally identified. The UK Department for International Development, which helps fund the eradication of polio in Pakistan, said they knew about the cases.
"Nothing is being covered up at all," said Zafar Mirza, Pakistan's health minister. "Before we continue, there is a need for full genome sequencing to determine the cause of the virus. The situation is under control."
Global health workers have almost eradicated three types of polio virus with vaccines containing weakened versions of each type. The wild type 2 virus was declared eradicated worldwide in 2015, and type 3 last month. But in rare cases, the virus used to make polio drops remains in the feces and mutates to be dangerous.
Vaccine-derived outbreaks have recently been seen in Congo, Angola and Nigeria.
A WHO spokesman said the type 2 polio virus was first detected in August.