The Government of Uganda in a new law signed by President Yoweri Museveni, has warned that parents who failed to vaccinate their children or take them for compulsory vaccinations would be prosecuted. Though the President signed the act into law on 10 March, it has only just been made public.
The country which is embarking on a mass immunization campaign against several life-threatening diseases, including measles, meningitis, tetanus, hepatitis B, polio, diphtheria, yellow fever and whooping cough, warns in a statement released on Monday that parents or people preventing vaccinations could face fines of $63 or six months in jail.
Ugandan Health Minister, Sarah Achieng Opendi says the law which also requires children to have an immunization card to allow them to go to school, will help the government reach its vaccination target, adding that some parents and members of a religious cult have refused to allow their children be vaccinated as 3% of Uganda’s children had not been immunized.
The vaccination campaign is targeted at children below the age of five as well as some other groups such as young girls being vaccinated against cervical cancer and young mothers.
In 2015, the World Health Organization estimated that 70 children out of every 1,000 will die before they reached the age of five in Uganda.
Immunization Advisor with the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Kampala, Andrew Bakainaga, reveals that more than 90 per cent of those targeted had already been vaccinated, adding, however, that in some districts, the vaccination coverage ‘is very low’.
Bakainaga warned that children who had not been vaccinated could be barred from primary school.
Police were apprehending religious sect leaders and other people opposing vaccinations. During sensitization campaigns, some children had been found hidden in slums by their parents to avoid the exercise.
Health Minister, Sarah Opendi says some religious leaders have previously been arrested but could not be charged because there was no specific law and the cult that refused to immunize their children are known as 666 and was growing. According to Opendi, it started in a few districts in eastern Uganda, but now it has spread and now we are seeing it all over the country.
Many Ugandans welcome the free vaccines, though some criticize the government’s coercive methods.
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