Malabar Mail: Celebrating the spirit of the region

Vaccination no longer taboo in Malappuram

Satheesh Vellinezhi

Satheesh Vellinezhi  

From the 57% reach of immunisation in 2017, the district has soared to 92.5% now

For long, Malappuram resisted vaccination. Lack of information, superstitions, religious orthodoxy, conspiracy theories and acceptance of quacks were among the reasons for the abysmally low rate of immunisation in the district.

Things, however, are changing fast in Malappuram. From the 57% reach of immunisation in 2017, the district has soared to 92.5% now. Within two years, the district has achieved a staggering feat.

Malappuram has now been exempted from the Central government’s Mission Indradhanush, a special drive meant to achieve 90 per cent vaccination all over the country, bringing a moment of pride to the 4.6 million people of the district of Malappuram. Districts like Wayanad and Kasaragod, which are still covered under the Mission Indradhanush, can learn from Malappuram.

The district’s backwardness in many areas, including immunisation, has been a good fodder for Malappuram baiters. The way the Health Department fought this shame by roping in different stakeholders has been commendable.

The Health Department succeeded in making immunisation a topic of serious discussion at lower rungs of society. The health officials in the district coordinated and involved stakeholders like district administration, district panchayat, grama panchayats and municipalities, mass media, police, NRIs, religious groups and leaders, students, teachers and parents, voluntary and non-government organisations, doctors’ bodies like Indian Medical Association and Indian Association of Paediatrics.

The launch of Measles-Rubella (MR) vaccination campaign in October 2017 too was a blessing. The programme called Health Action for Schools, which addressed students, teachers and parents, proved very effective, as it could cover about 80 percent of the population.

The resistance groups of Malappuram, which had gained notoriety by blindly following anti-vaccine propagators, were cleverly circumvented through persistent means of awareness programmes. When the District Collector issued orders from time to time denying chances for the vaccine baiters to proceed, the health officials made best use of social media to reach out to the masses with correct information and to weigh down the negative campaigns.

While the District Collector called to his chamber the officials of the schools with low performance in immunisation, the district health officials targeted NRI parents, particularly low-income parents, through social media groups. And the net result was amazing. Nearly 85% of the 12.6 lakh children between 10 months and 15 years of age were covered in a few months. The real challenge was in the number. When Kozhikode district had a target of 6.4 lakh, the target of Malappuram was 12.6 lakh. Thus MR campaign was a game changer for Malappuram.

Now, the doctors are getting phone calls from the parents about vaccination. That is one major change.

The Valavannur block, which had offered the stiffest resistance to vaccination till a couple of years ago, has currently 1.08% unimmunized children. It calls for celebration.

What needs to be done is to carry forward the immunisation success story. Malappuram cannot afford to lose this momentum.

(MALABAR MAIL is a weekly column by The Hindu’s correspondents that will reflect Malabar’s life and lifestyle)

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Printable version | Feb 23, 2020 2:10:07 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/vaccination-no-longer-taboo-in-malappuram/article30323888.ece

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