February 18, 2019

Church Versus State as Polio Campaign Begins


By Derrick Kiplagat

The polio vaccination exercise is set to kick off across the country despite strong opposition raised by the Catholic Church. The church has advised parents to boycott the vaccination, questioning the safety of the vaccine to be used. The exercise is set to take place in 32 counties with over 6 million children expected to receive inoculation.

The 32 counties had earlier been earmarked as polio prone, after a risk analysis was conducted in January this year (2015). The counties were also seen as ones with a highly mobile population, a factor that reduces the efficiency of previously undertaken vaccination programs. After the analysis it was ascertained that 66 percent of the population and mostly children were at risk of contacting the polio virus.

The polio campaign is set to run in two phases, with the first scheduled to begin on August 1st to 5th and the second phase of the program set to run between August 29th and September 2nd. The first round was launched yesterday by the Ministry of Health in Gilgil town.

In response to the Catholic Church’s concern on the safety of the vaccine, the Ministry of Health has published two advertisements to help educate members of the public on the importance of the vaccine. Health Principal Secretary Khadija Kassachoon has, however, accused the Catholic Church of spreading falsities.

Speaking during the launch at Gilgil yesterday, the PS said the vaccine is safe and requested the church to support the state in ensuring the campaign is a success. “The Ministry of Health wishes to assure all Kenyans that the vaccine being used during the polio vaccination is safe and effective,” she said.

The Principal Secretary added that the vaccine had been prequalified by the World Health Organization (WHO) and sourced by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). In one of the advertisements, the Pharmacy and Poisons Board clearly shows the process the government has used to acquire the drugs, assuring the public on the quality and safety of the polio vaccine. Despite the numerous assurances by the Health Ministry however, the Catholic Church remains adamant that the vaccines are unsafe and has urged its members to boycott the exercise.

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