KOZHIKODE: With the four-week-long measles-rubella vaccination drive set to begin on Tuesday, fake news and counter campaigns on social media are proving a headache for the Health Department.
There are countless posts on Facebook and WhatsApp propagated by some groups that have visibly distorted facts to propagate anti-vaccination sentiments. Ironically, such posts sound convincing to laymen who will rather not take the ‘risk of vaccination’ that ‘causes damage’.
An organisation named International Human Rights Association, which claims to be working under the United Nations with its headquarters at Pala in Kottayam district, is the primary source of posts claiming that vaccination campaigns are part of an international conspiracy to reduce the population of the country, and that it causes autism and other mental disorders to children.
They also say the government will not be responsible for the after-effects of the vaccination, and that most children are vaccinated without the consent of their parents.
One post gives a distorted version of a Kerala High Court order. It says the court has ruled against forced vaccination. Some parents too have come up in support of anti-vaccination campaigns, claiming that their children have developed complications after vaccination. A Kollam-based Ayurvedic practitioner, Mohanan Vaidyer, and a self-acclaimed naturopath, Jacob Vadakkancheri (Nature Life International), too have been campaigning against vaccination for long.
However, the Health Department has not countered the claims. “There is no point in countering each new argument,” said Sarala Nair, District RCH Officer and nodal officer for the vaccination drive. “They would simply come up with another fake argument. Instead, we are concentrating on sensitising the public, especially teachers and mothers, about the necessity of vaccinations,” she added.
Meanwhile, the Health Department has made arrangements to ensure the safety of children. In schools, children will be given time to rest after vaccination. If they develop any problem, medical assistance will be provided immediately. “Parents need not panic over a mild fever after a week of vaccination. It is a normal after-effect and only means that the vaccine is working,” Dr. Nair said.
R. Sreenath, Surveillance Medical Officer of the World Health Organisation, said the MR vaccine had not been imported as counter campaigners had been claiming. “It is manufactured by Serum Institute of India. In fact, India exports the vaccine to 86 countries,” he added.
The Department of Education has sent a circular to schools, urging teachers to support the campaign instead of falling for counter campaigns.
“It is the responsibility of educated people of Kerala to resist such campaigns powered by pseudo science and religion,” said Indian Medical Association State president V.G. Pradeep Kumar in a press release.
“Vaccination drives are conducted in all countries. In India, they have been approved by a Central expert committee. It has been proved completely safe and effective. Around 3.7 crore children in five States have undergone vaccination successfully in the first phase of the campaign,” he added.