With hardly four weeks left for the largest immunisation drive to be undertaken in Karnataka, confusion prevails among the various stakeholders thanks to a lack of information among the public.
The Health and Family Welfare Department of the state government is gearing up to implement the central government’s MR Vaccine campaign to completely eradicate measles and rubella from the state. The vaccination drive set to be held across the state from February 7 to February 28 is part of the union government’s aim to eradicate MR from Goa, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Lakshadweep by 2020, said an official.
A doctor who is part of the WHO team that will monitor the vaccination drive told The News Minute that nearly 1.64 crore children between the ages of nine months and 15 years will be administered the MR vaccine during the drive.
“While children from the age of five and above will be administered the vaccine at camps held in all the schools, anganwadis and individual homes will also be approached to reach out to non-school going children,” said the doctor, who did not wish to be named.
D Shashi Kumar, General Secretary of the Associated Managements of Primary and Secondary Schools in the state said that the drive will be conducted in all the government and private schools in the state.
"All the parents must co-operate because this is being done in the best interest of the students," he said.
However, parents of several children studying in a number of private schools in Bengaluru have expressed doubt regarding the vaccination drive and fear that it will cause harm to their children.
Resistance from parents
The primary issue many parents raise is the necessity of a third dose, considering that their children have already been administered two doses of the vaccine.
Bengaluru-based Saurabh Kalra, who has started an online petition on Charge.org on the issue said,
“There is no data to show that a third dose is harmless to the children. What is the logic behind re-immunising the children? Secondly, we do not know anything about the team that will administer the vaccines to the children. Some other parents are also raising suspicion about financial irregularities,” said Saurabh, who is the parent of a 6-year-old who goes to a private school in the city.
The online petition raises questions about why parents were not kept in the loop and why approval from the parents was not sought.
However, the doctor representing the WHO team insists that there are no side effects even if the vaccine is administered a third time.
“MR vaccine is the safest one, and will only boost their immunity. Only children who have skipped the first two doses are likely to develop mild fever and rashes. Apart from that, the parents need not worry,” the doctor said.
Dr Latha, state Deputy Director of Immunisation, maintains that the information regarding the vaccination drive has been conveyed to all school administrations. However, some school principals have said that they are yet to receive this information.
The Principal of a private school in HSR layout told TNM, “We are entitled to seek the approval of the parents before such a drive is conducted in the premises. Apart from reading about the drive in the media, we have not received official word on the same.”
Shashi Kumar admits that there have been lapses on the part of all the government departments concerned in reaching out to parents and spreading awareness on the necessity of the drive. Even the fact that the immunisation drive is a WHO-monitored one has not been conveyed to the public so far.
"Not just one department, but the responsibility to do so lies with all the departments. The parents need to know why the government is conducting the drive and only then will they co-operate with it without any worry. In the coming days, measures to reach out to them will be planned," Shashi Kumar said.