As you all might be aware, the Measles Rubella (MR) vaccination campaign kickstarted in Kerala on October 3, 2017. It’s a huge programme, probably the first one of it’s kind in India covering every child in the age group of 9 months to 15 years. One shot of the MR vaccine is given irrespective of previous vaccinations at schools, kinder-garderns, anganwadis and other centers.
MUST READ: The Measles Rubella vaccination
So, how the MR vaccination campaign fared in-spite of the growing voices of the anti-vaccinators and religious bluffs? Continue reading.
Inaugural Day – October 3
The vaccination campaign kick-started all over the state on October 3 and we too started our campaign at the Government Girls high school, Madayi. Our Panchayat President presided over the inaugural function at the school where I too took a shot of the MR vaccine! By 12.30 pm, we had vaccinated around 220 students from eighth to tenth standard. Not a bad start, considering that there were just 280 eligible students at that school. The second vaccination session which was planned at Government Boy’s High school had to be re-planned, because of an important political party’s road show was passing through the same area and schools were given the instruction to disperse the students before noon!
Achievement oil October 10
The best achievement in the first week at our village was at the S.N KingWood school. A beautiful little school situated right in the middle of the famous “Madayi Rocks”. Out of the 183 eligible students, 163 were given the Measles Rubella vaccine. The cooperation from the school management and the teachers were so much supportive and really played a big role in the high vaccination rate.
The major disappointment came from the M.E.C.A school which stood at the banks of the Payangadi river. Though the principal and the teachers were cooperative enough for conducting the vaccination programme, the vaccination rate was just 10%. Just 70 out of the eligible 598 students came forward for vaccination as the majority of students were not given the “CONSENT” for vaccination by their parents! It was the same day when the UNICEF and state programme monitors had visited the school for evaluation.
Priyadarshini and Hindu L.P schools in Vengara had a decent 68% vaccination rate.
As saturday, the 7th October was a school holiday, we had planned the campaigns at Beach Road and Haji Road Anganwadis. The achievement there too was poor! Only 3 children showed up at the Haji Road anganwadi as they had received the information regarding the MR campaign some days earlier. And out of these 3 just one kid was vaccinated! At Beach Road anganwadi, we were greeted by just the anganwadi teacher and the helper! None of the kids had shown up simply because their parents didn’t let them! The JPHNs had to go in teams to neighbouring houses to motivate mothers to bring their kids to the anganwadis for vaccination. That day, we could vaccinate only 33 kids!
Questions & Answers on MR vaccine
Here are some of the questions that we received at schools from children and some teachers.
Q. Is this injection given for killing us?
A. No! This is a life-saving vaccine. Actually, children who are not vaccinated are dying from Measles. More than 50000 children die every year from Measles alone!
Q. Will this vaccine make us infertile?
A. NO! This vaccine will ensure that your next generation be healthy and free from the dangerous congenital rubella syndrome. It has nothing to do with fertility!
Q. I have allergy, can I be vaccinated safely?
A. Yes, unless you have an allergy to vaccines as such, you can take the shot safely. Common cold, allergic rhinitis and skin allergies are not contra-indications for MR vaccine.
Q. I have fever, and am taking medicines. Should I take the vaccine now?
A. Doctor in the medical team will examine you and tell you. Mild fever and cold are not contra-indications as such.
Q. I received a WhatsApp message from “International Human Rights Association” regarding the dangers of MR vaccine. Is it true?
A. No, it’s a fake message. Their website is not genuine. There’s no such association in Kerala and there’s no way we could contact them. Don’t believe in such false messages.
Thoughts after One Week
Vaccination rate was acceptable in government schools and in schools with mixed population of Hindu and Muslim students. But, in Muslim managed schools, the achievement was considerably poor. There has been a massive attack on the Measles Rubella campaign in the Muslim community by some religious leaders. The extent of it’s spread was clearly evident in the first week of the campaign itself.
Muslim students were forbidden by their parents to get vaccinated! Two of the most widely spread misconnects among these children were the first 2 questions discussed above. Some children were willing to get vaccinated after seeing their friends getting the shot safely. But, they were helpless as their parents had given a written letter to the school staff forbidding them from any vaccine!
There’s another group of children who stayed away from the vaccines simply because of the fear of injections. Those who had the guts to visit the vaccination room and see their fellow classmates getting vaccinated were persuaded by the health workers to get the shot. But, others who stayed in their own classes hiding missed the vaccine completely. And that’s where the role of teachers comes into the programme being successful.
Some teachers were ignorant on the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine. They could have easily motivated the children to get the shot. Some teachers cared about the students, and the majority didn’t.
More coming up in the next few articles. So, stay tuned!
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