Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Parents oppose vaccination drive at city schools

Ever since the Tamil Nadu government announced that 1.8 crore children between 9 months and 15 years will be given the measles-rubella vaccine at schools and in health centres from February 6, 
rumours have rocked the drive. 

Audio clips and text messages have been 'warning' parents that the vaccine would leave their children with stunted growth and that a pharmaceutical major was testing the drug on children and dumping the 'banned' vaccine in India. On Thursday, officials at the directorate of public health who rallied against rumours and anti-vaccine campaigners with threats of arrest were contemplating booking them under the Goondas Act for causing a public health hazard.

But the real problem for state health officials is the message from paediatricians who have been telling parents to skip the drive either because the child has already been vaccinated or because they feel it does not make a significant impact. Several paediatricians told TOI that vaccination would not make difference to a child's health but carried risks of adverse reaction.

Rubella, also known as German measles, is a viral infection common in children. "My son's doctor told me that rubella is a mild airborne infection where serious complications or death is rare. Once acquired it provides lifelong immunity. And a woman can pass on the immunity to her child. My child has already taken the required doses of the vaccine," said Vijaya R, mother of a 12-year-old from Bala Vidya Mandir. She said she would not sign the consent her son's school wanted for the vaccination. 

Most schools copied to parents the letter they received from Greater Chennai Corporation about the three-week vaccination drive along with a consent form. Theophilus J, who received a message from Don Bosco, Egmore, said he would not send his children to school if the government insisted on vaccinating them. School managements, across boards, have been facing resistance to the programme from 80% of the parents. "Parents told us that they are not sure. There is strong reluctance," said Bhavan's Rajaji Vidyashram principal Ajeeth Prasath Jain.

Some parents asked why they should re-vaccinate their children when they had already been given the vaccine, said principal of a CBSE school in Kilpauk. "Initially the corporation was insisting on holding the camps. Now, they have asked us to write to them about the reluctance from parents," the principal said.

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