The measles-rubella vaccination drive has begun in Kerala on October 3 and it will last till November 3, but the drive faces many challenges.
The vaccination mission has had to build resistance against the ongoing social media campaign against it. A number of Facebook posts and WhatsApp messages have appeared, citing the hazards of vaccination.
Prominent among them were some excerpts of an article by Dr Khadeeja Mumtaz, retired professor at Kozhikode Medical College, which was published in Mathrubhumi newspaper in 2014.
The post which contained the excerpts of this article, that offer no basis for the claims it makes, has been shared on Facebook and WhatsApp for the last few days.
It says: “MR Vaccine will harm the natural immunisation of children. Measles and Rubella are not severe diseases for children. It comes with a fever and then goes. Once it comes at childhood, a child gets lifetime immunisation and it won’t come again. Vaccination’s assurance is only for 10 years. After 10 years, the disease can come. So by giving vaccination, a disease that would have come only in childhood without any complications has now been shifted to the youth stage. For adults, this disease can create problems especially during pregnancy.
For 97% girls who have not taken the vaccine, they might have achieved natural immunity, by the time they get pregnant. After 10 years, whoever is taking the vaccine might have lost their immunity and others might have gained their immunity…….” the article says without any proof to back it up.
Naturopath Jacob Vadakkanchery who is an anti-vaccination campaigner for last many years says in his Facebook video posted on October 4, “USA has special courts to deal with cases regarding the victims who lost their life after taking vaccinations. All government websites clearly say vaccinations might have dangerous side-affects. India gives vaccines which were boycotted in America. Oral polio vaccine was stopped there and we are still giving it. It was stopped there because it was found that those vaccines created more cases of polio there..."
Another post claiming to be written by Sajan Sindhu has also been going viral. “I have decided not to give MR vaccine to my children. It was not proved that MR vaccine is effective. Not only MR vaccine, no other vaccines are proved to be effective. Vaccines contain dead germs, rotten eggs, drainage water, contaminated blood and some body fluids. It can cause side effects...” says the post.
Though there were strong campaigns by the government to promote the vaccination drive, many are getting influenced by the anti- vaccination campaigns.
Health Minister KK Shailaja said in Malappuram prior to the vaccination drive, “There is false propaganda against the vaccination drive. Certain people still hold on to superstitions. But we are trying to overcome the situation by enlightening people. Besides, strong action would be taken against those creating panic among the people,’’ reports The Indian Express.
Meanwhile, one person was booked in Kottayam for allegedly spreading fake news on vaccines. Sebastian was charged under Section 120 (O) of the Kerala Police Act, based on a complaint filed by Dr Yasodharan.
Two days ago in Thiruvananthapuram, District Medical Officer Dr Jose G D’Cruz, filed a complaint with District Child Protection Officer against six schools in the district saying that they weren’t allowing vaccination of children at school.
As per the complaint, the schools informed that parents are against vaccination and they can’t allow it until they get written sanction from parents. But the DMO said that the schools haven’t conducted any PTA (parent teacher association) meetings regarding this.
Kerala government has planned the vaccination campaign for children in the age group of 9 months to 15 years, as part of the National Immunisation Programme. The health department aims to vaccinate 76 lakh children, by administering the vaccines, especially through schools.
Dr Fulton D'Souza, Professor of Pediatrics, St John's Hospital, Bengaluru, explains that polio, measles and rubella are the only three diseases transmitted by humans and only found in humans. "So, if the disease is controlled in humans, it can easily be eradicated," he says.