A few weeks ago, the Kerala government vigorously campaigned for the Measles-Rubella vaccination, even filing complaints against people who had spread misinformation about the vaccine.
But now an MLA of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has confessed that he was against vaccination and that anti-vaccination campaigners should have sent out their message more effectively.
AM Ariff, the MLA from the Aroor constituency courted controversy when he spoke against the Measles-Rubella (MR) vaccination on Sunday at an event.
“The government had made strict rules about Rubella vaccination and that all students should get it. I was part of such review meetings. My children have grown without vaccinations. On one side was the government’s instruction and on the other side was any personal take against anti-vaccination,” he said.
He said that though he fought for the rights of people who wanted to reject vaccination, he had to toe the government’s line. He confessed that it was double standards on his part.
“Those like you who oppose and criticize vaccination should have help more campaigns. Only then could my stand have been strengthened. People who are against vaccinations are made to look like anti-nationals. There is no need to be scared, we should be able to justify our arguments,” he had said at a seminar organised by the Institute of Homeopathy Kerala, in Alappuzha.
Dr Shimna Azeez, a medical officer at Manjeri Medical College in Malappuram, who had earlier injected herself with MR vaccine to convince reluctant parents also took to Facebook expressing shock over the MLA’s remarks.
“MLA Ariff… How can you make such unscientific comments against the government? Have you studied this issue? Do you know about the dreadful diseases that can be avoided by taking MR vaccine? As an elected representative you should have a sense of responsibility towards the society. You should be helping to create public awareness of science and medicine in the society”, read Shimna’s post.
“Are you aware of the embarrassment caused to us in Malappuram? We have been cursed and threatened at many places. Our doctors and nurses were attacked. Parents have vaccinated their children in front of live cameras”, read Shimna’s post.
Shimna Azeez has won Kerala Government Medical Officers Association’s award for excellence in social service for the year 2018. She bagged the award for her outstanding contribution towards MR vaccination drive.
Ariff says he was only making a personal statement
On Monday, the MLA told TNM that his statements were allegedly distorted by the media.
“My statements were misinterpreted. I did not mean to support any activities against MR vaccines. In fact, I have been active in making the MR vaccination drive a success,” said Ariff.
He added, “I did make a personal statement saying my children were not given the MR vaccine as my wife is a homeopathy doctor and she wanted to give the children preventive medicines in homeopathy. I had told her then that this decision came with certain risks associated with it.”
Ariff also clarified his comment where he asked that people speaking against MR vaccines not be called anti-nationals, saying that he only meant to encourage a scientific study on the topic.
“It wasn’t a statement favouring the anti-MR vaccination drive. I was merely trying to initiate and encourage a more scientific discussion around the issue. If people are concerned about the side effects, then the issue has to addressed scientifically,” he said.
IMA asks him to retract comment
Meanwhile, the India Medical Association (IMA) accused him of tarnishing facts and asked him to retract his statements on Monday.
In a letter signed by Dr EK Ummer, IMA State President, and Dr N Sulphi, IMA State Secretary, the organisation said, “It is saddening to see the representative of a liberal, progressive institution make such archaic statements. It is surprising that MLA Ariff finds his leaning towards a Left Democratic Front government, which has always upheld progressive steps in educational and medical spaces.”
When asked if he would like to comment on the anti-MR vaccination drive in Malappuram, the MLA said, “Those are advocates of religious extremism. Do not include me in that list. I also condemn violence induced by such groups in the MR vaccination camps.”