Despite the Kerala state government's continued efforts at spreading awareness on the need to administer Measles-Rubella vaccination to children, anti-vaccination campaigners continue to cause hindrances to the drive.
A nurse who was among the team of medical staff carrying out an MR vaccination drive at a school in Malappuram, was attacked by anti-vaccination campaigners. The team was conducting a drive at Athippatta GLP School in Edayoor panchayat.
A group of protesters barged into the school a little after 12 noon and manhandled Shyamala by twisting her hands. The group also damaged Shyamala's mobile phone. Shyamala, who sustained a fracture in her hand, was then hospitalised.
On Friday, the police arrested three persons for attacking the nurse. According to Valanchery police, Mubasheer (23), Safan (26) and Faisal Babu (24) were arrested and charged under sections including 143, 147, 148, 323, 353, 354, 506 (1), 432 read with 147 of the IPC.
Speaking to TNM, Edayoor Public Health Centre medical officer Dr Ali Mohammed, who supervised the vaccination drive, said, “Around 12 noon we started the vaccination programme. We had 4 nurses, one health inspector and one medical officer to assist us. Things were going smoothly and we had successfully vaccinated 15 students. That’s when a group of young people barged into the vaccination area. They were armed with knives."
In no time, the group began to threaten the health staff and proceeded to verbally abuse them.
"They said if we don’t stop the programme, we would be killed. Shyamala, our nurse staff, tried contacting the higher authorities. This infuriated the young group. They snatched the phone from her hand, smashed it on the ground, and held on to her neck. They even twisted her hands," Dr Ali said.
The police said that the protesters turned violent alleging that some of the children were administered vaccination without the consent of their parents.
However, Dr Ali refuted the allegations and said that the team had not forced anyone to take the vaccination. As far as the opposing parents were concerned, the team had left it to their discretion, the doctor said.
Condemning the attack, Kerala Government Public Nurses and Supervisors Union said that they will boycott vaccination drives if their safety was not ensured. The Union said that they would proceed to boycott the drives if the attackers were not arrested by Friday.
Meanwhile, Deputy District Medical Officer (DMO) Renuka said that despite their efforts to make people understand how crucial vaccination programmes are, they are met with continued resistance.
“Malappuram has growing anti-vaccination groups among the people, this is very disturbing. They are also against anti-modern medicine. They spread such harmful messages to people through social media. People are really confused now. We try our best to make them understand how crucial vaccination programmes are to avoid deadly diseases, but these extreme anti-vaccination groups are influential in the district. They mislead people saying vaccination is administered to dwindle the Muslim population and the protein used for the vaccination is prepared from pig meat. They make sure that all PTA meetings are dismissed despite the Collector’s strict order that PTA meetings are to be attended by all parents," Renuka said.