Action on the cards as refusal cases surface in KP's anti-measles campaign

Published November 19, 2021
A health worker administers measles vaccine to a boy in a health centre in Gulbahar, Peshawar, on Thursday. — White Star
A health worker administers measles vaccine to a boy in a health centre in Gulbahar, Peshawar, on Thursday. — White Star

PESHAWAR: Some parents are reluctant to administer vaccines to their school going children in the measles and rubella campaign during which more than four million people have been immunised so far.

Officials told Dawn that elementary and secondary education department was sharing information about refusal cases with the health department to be proceeded according to the relevant law. They said that they were reporting to the government about the parents, who not willing to allow vaccination of their children.

They said that social mobilisers explained to the parents about the effectiveness of vaccine and many complied while others continued to be in state of denial.

Officials say govt informed about parents not allowing vaccination of their children

“We don’t have any authority to force people on getting jabs but we are sending names of the students, who aren’t getting vaccinated due to the refusal of the parents. Provincial government has already issued directives to public and private schools to ensure immunisation of students. The problem exists more in private schools than public sector,” said the officials.

According to them, action will be taken against the schools if they show reluctance in vaccination of students in accordance with West Pakistan Vaccination Refusal against Vaccination Ordinance, 1958 and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Vaccination (Amended) Act 2017.

The violators are liable to three-month imprisonment and Rs10, 000 fine under the law. Additionally, the administration has also invoked Epidemic Control and Emergency Relief Act, 2020 which stipulates imposition of Rs1 million fine on the schools for refusing vaccination. Such institutions can be also closed by the authorities.

“There are very few instances of refusals during the campaign which are resolved the same day. The vaccines we are administering to the people are already available in fixed centres of expanded programme on immunisation (EPI) of the health department,” said Dr Mohammad Arif, the director of EPI. He said that they had also deployed social mobilisers, who talked to the people showing hesitancy against vaccination and convinced them on immunisation of the target persons.

He said that so far, 4,014,045 people were vaccinated during the past four days that was 25 per cent of the total 15.6 million target people from nine months to 15 years of age. He said that the drive would end on November 27. He added that they were well on the way to achieve the target.

Dr Arif said that people could also receive shots at 1,702 EPI centres set up in the state-run hospitals throughout the province. He said that the ongoing effort was meant to respond to infections reported in the province. He added that the problem of refusals was reported from some private schools but with the support of district administration, the people got vaccinated after counselling them that the injections were safe and meant to safeguard the recipients against both the ailments.

“As of Thursday, 1,291,794 people have been vaccinated during outreach activity. Of them, 829, 050 have been vaccinated during community-based campaign, 518,010 in schools, 50,278 at fixed centres and 4,988 through mobile teams,” said Dr Asif.

Officials in health department said that there was no side effect of the vaccines. Three days ago, a few children were reported to get fainted after vaccination in Charsadda district, however, investigation showed that it was not reaction of vaccine but fear.

Both the diseases were vaccine-preventable and the unvaccinated people were exposed to blindness, pneumonia, diarrhoea and abortions, they said.

Published in Dawn, November 19th, 2021

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