Mumbai: Schools, parents are divided over M-R vaccine drive

Dec 03, 2018, 07:29 IST | Pallavi Smart

As six-week campaign begins in Maharashtra, unsubstantiated reports about alleged side effects have agitated parents about the initiative

Mumbai: Schools, parents are divided over M-R vaccine drive
Children hold up certificates after being administered the M-R vaccine

The state's Measles and Rubella vaccination drive in schools has struck fear into students' parents, amid rumours of side effects. Many whose children had already been vaccinated are worried that this is an unnecessary and risky double dose. To make matters worse, a news report about children suffering adverse reactions in Wardha has gone viral. Parents also claimed that the vaccine had been made mandatory, and when they denied consent, were asked by schools to get a letter from a doctor.

Vaccination is voluntary. But it is important to know that between a fatal disease and a double dose, it is always better to take another dose, as it is not harmful’ Dr Sanjay Surase, medical superintendent, J J Hospital Children hold up certificates after being administered the M- R vaccine.

Mumbai: Schools, parents are divided over M-R vaccine drive

Last week, the Maharashtra government began its six-week drive to administer the M- R vaccine to children aged between nine months and 15 years, free of cost. Schoolgoing children are to be vaccinated at their respective institutes. Consent forms were circulated among parents, but at many schools, the vaccination drive was met with strong opposition. While the schools are merely the intermediary, they have borne the brunt of parents' ire.

"This vaccination has already been given to the child after birth. What is the need of taking it again? Moreover, why is it being made mandatory at schools?" questioned Ratan Junnarkar, the concerned mother of a 12-year-old girl.

She added, "There is no clarity on this, and the government hasn't properly announced the details of this drive. There are news reports of side effects to the injection in some parts of the state. How can we trust this drive, especially when it is done at such a mass level?"

All kids stable
According to information from Dr Sanjeev Kamble, director of health services, Maharashtra, by the end of the drive, the vaccine will be administered to 3.2 crore children in the state. A total of 57 lakh children have been vaccinated so far. "Only five have experienced side effects. They are all stable now," he said.

The five children Kamble refers to were hospitalised for side effects, such as lowered pulse rates, dizziness and vomiting. While three have been discharged, the two remaining two are under observation, but in a stable condition. However, around 300 kids reported minor reactions to the vaccine, such as itching, rashes, and swelling at the injection site.

Not mandatory
In some cases, parents denied their consent for the vaccination, but got were asked to put their denial in writing and get it certified by their family doctor. Parents said they panicked when even doctors seemed unwilling to give such an assurance in writing, leading to fears that their children would be vaccinated regardless. However, mid-day checked with the state government’s health department and found that no such directive was issued to schools to ask for either denial of consent in writing or a letter from a doctor.

Dr Kamble said, "A child may have been given the vaccination already, but it is safe to take it again. The objective is to ensure that no one is left without i, so that there 100 per cent eradication of Measles and Rubella." "Schools have been asked to counsel parents if anybody refuses the vaccination. However, it is not mandatory," he emphasised.

Francis Joseph, co- founder of SLN (Student Leadership Network) Foundation, which has held meetings among principals regarding the M- R vaccination drive, said, "At many schools, it was done successfully. We also made it clear that the onus is on BMC, which is conducting the drive, and schools will only be intermediaries. We gave directives to schools to not force it on any parent. We also asked schools to provide children with biscuits before they are given the vaccine."

Several parents who were apprehensive earlier eventually changed their minds upon being counselled by the school administrations. Dr Sanjay Surase, medical superintendent, J J Hospital, said, "Vaccination is voluntary. But it is important to know that between a fatal disease and a double dose, it is always better to take another dose, as it is not harmful."

Differing views
"We were stressed out earlier, particularly about the children will react when they are given an injection in school. But it was done very professionally. My daughter did not cry. Also, for younger children, schools allowed parents to be present during vaccination."
- Madhuri Gavade, mother of an 8-year-old

"Our school held a parents' meeting to inform us about the drive. However, it was not clear why these same vaccines are to be given again when our kids have already taken them before"
-Rajat Shah, father of a 10-year-old

05: No of kids hospitalised with side effects

57 L: Total number of children vaccinated so far instate

300: Number of kids who suffered minor reactions

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