Teams then head out in rented taxis or on motorcycles, armed with lists of families in their areas that have children younger than 5. They go door to door, circling back after a break for lunch and prayer to the houses where children weren’t home in the morning.
At one house, a woman insisted that she didn’t want her 3-year-old daughter, Mursal, to be vaccinated. She wouldn’t give a reason, but the workers suspected she was worried for religious reasons.
Each member of the three-person team tried to persuade her, even reading from a book of religious declarations that allowed the vaccine.
The last member of the team to try, Mr. Razaq, was blunt: If you keep rejecting the vaccine, he asked, will you be able to take care of your daughter when she contracts polio? He pleaded, insisting that he was religious, too, but still made sure all his young children were vaccinated. At last, he got through, and Mursal received her dose for the month.
Sometimes religious scholars, like Mr. Rashid, accompany the teams and help reassure families. “According to Islam, health is very important, and we can use anything to ensure our health,” he said. “We convinced 70 families this month who were rejecting polio vaccine.”
Other times, balloons work.
That was enough at one house: A woman there said no to the vaccine, but the boy with her wanted a balloon — so he got both it and his dose.
But bigger fears at work here than children’s distaste for medicine. Many families know the Taliban are suspicious of the government vaccination drive, and worry that they will become targets if they are seen allowing the health workers into their homes.