Pakistan is seeing a surge in polio cases with numbers so far this year nearly four times the 2018 total, as health officials have admitted vaccination rates have been falsely recorded in the past.
The latest government figures show Pakistan has seen 45 cases of the deadly disease this year, the highest tally since 2015 and up from only 12 cases last year.
The rise in cases is expected to continue through the summer monsoon and comes after scientists have warned the 31-year global fight to eradicate the disease has stalled.
While the wild virus has been declared defeated everywhere except Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria, the vaccine itself is also spawning strains in other parts of the world. These vaccine-derived cases arise when the weakened live virus used in the oral polio vaccine mutates and regains its virulence. Such a case was discovered in China earlier this month.
Babar Atta, prime minister Imran Khan’s special adviser on polio, has said officials had previously claimed vaccination rates of well over 95 per cent, which should be enough to wipe out the virus in the wild.