The Directorate of Public Health and Preventive Medicine (DPH) has filed a complaint with the cyber cell of the Central Crime Branch for action to be taken against those spreading misinformation about the Measles Rubella (M-R) vaccine on social media.
Director of Public Health K. Kolandaisamy said the complaint was filed on February 9, and that another complaint was also lodged in Madurai.
“We are giving a strong response to these rumours. Arguments and dissent is fine, but the rumours about the vaccine have gone beyond that. One of the rumours says 10 children have died which is completely untrue,” he said.
The complaints apart, the directorate has also written to the Tamil Nadu Commission for Protection of Child Rights, he said. “We have also written to the Tamil Nadu Medical Council stating that a registered private medical practitioner was circulating some of these messages,” he said.
Opposition from parents
The MR vaccine campaign, which began on February 6, saw a spot of trouble with opposition from some parents and schools as well as several rumours circulating on social media about the vaccine, warning parents not to allow their children to take it and confusing many.
In the week since it has begun, a total of 27.75 lakh children have been vaccinated and another 8 lakh are expected to be vaccinated on Monday but this is slightly lower than the expected numbers, Dr. Kolandaisamy said.
Parts of Sivaganga and Ramanathapuram districts as well as a few urban areas in Chennai and Coimbatore have been especially badly hit by the rumours, he said.
“However, we are not worried. A few districts had local holidays and the de-worming campaign too was held in the midst of this so this too has contributed to drop in numbers, but we have a cushion of a few days towards the end of the campaign when we can cover all missed cases,” he said.
Several parents have a ‘wait and watch’ attitude he said, but the directorate is hoping for things to settle down this week.
The Indian Academy of Paediatrics, Tamil Nadu, which has backed the Measles Rubella vaccination drive, is planning to hold workshops in Erode, Tirunelveli, Tiruchi and Chennai over the next few days, said its State president S. Thirumalai Kolundu.
“The aim is to inform private practitioners and government doctors about the importance of the vaccine and to allay the fears of the public. This is being done is association with the WHO, UNICEF and the DPH,” he said.
They expected 80-100 doctors to attend each of the workshops, he added.
On the cases of children fainting, Dr. Kolundu said fainting occurred even in private clinics when a child cried excessively or had not eaten.
“They were all fine in about half an hour,” he said.
The campaign is targeted at covering 1.8 crore children in the State between the ages of 9 months and 15 years and will go on until February 28.