THOUSANDS of children from previously resistant apostolic sect communities in Manicaland were this week immunised against measles and rubella – in a paradigm shift that will improve public healthcare.
When the The Manica Post news crew visited the Johanne Marange Apostolic Sect-run St Noah Primary School, health teams were busy immunising the children indiscriminately.
The school has an enrolment of 3 000 pupils from mostly sect families, and by 12pm health workers said they had vaccinated 1 500 pupils.
The children were being assisted by teachers, who advised all sect children to undergo deliverance rituals under a tree adjacent to the vaccination point.
The positive response follows a massive persuasive drive led by the Ministry of Health and Child Care and traditional leaders in the area targeting sect members amid reports that 70 percent of the area’s children were left out of the national immunisation program last year.
According to UNICEF, which was spearheading the measles campaign last year, the Marange community recorded the lowest number of children who were immunised.
The Marange area is home to members of the Johanne Marange Apostolic church who resisted immunisation because of their religious beliefs.
Provincial Medical Director Dr Patron Mafaune on Wednesday revealed that the programme was progressing well within the sect communities.
Dr Mafaune said some of the vaccinated children complained of side urticaria, which is a kind of skin rash (munyaviri) notable for pale red, raised, itchy bumps. Urticaria is frequently caused by allergic reactions.
“We have not received any reports of objectors. At the moment we have also not had challenges which we have failed to handle. This is a public health intervention meant to eradicate measles and Rubella and communities should cooperate with health workers because it is good for children. Yes we have had some children complaining of urticaria, but it’s under control. It was a mild reaction and the affected children were given drugs,” said Dr Mafaune.
Johanne Marange High Priest Noah Taguta is on record saying he church supports all Government programmes.
“We are vaccinating all children at this school. As you can see, they are at work. This is a good advert for the church because most people still think we are still imbedded in that patriarchal mentality that does not tolerate health intervention. All sect children vaccinated would undergo some deliverance performed by some prophets. This is some form of cleansing,” said one sect member who was assisting children, but refused to be named citing church protocol.
One of the health workers said the sect’s cooperation was least expected.
“We did not expect this kind of turn up. We are really excited, and so far we have vaccinated more than 1 500. There was likelihood that we could have found the school gate locked or the whole school empty,” said one of the immunising members.
Dr Mafaune revealed that Manicaland recorded several incidence of Rubella last tear.
“We had several cases of Rubella that were scattered across the province, and this is why we are having this massive campaign,” said Dr Mafaune.
Rubella is an acute, contagious viral infection. While the illness is generally mild in children, it has serious consequences in pregnant women causing foetal death or congenital defects known as congenital rubella syndrome (CRS). This is an important cause of blindness, deafness, congenital heart disease and mental retardation in new born babies.
The rubella virus is transmitted by airborne droplets when infected people sneeze or cough. Humans are the only known host. The goal of rubella vaccination is to minimize the number of susceptible women of childbearing age as weak vaccination efforts can actually increase those susceptible to the disease.
Rubella, of late, had been neglected in Zimbabwe despite the fact that in the past the vaccine has been initiated in children at 13-18 months of age. Adverse reactions following vaccination are generally mild. They may include pain and redness at the injection site, low-grade fever, rash and muscle aches.
The recent announcement by the Government regarding rubella immunization has been hailed by many health experts given a steady rise of the disease.Manica Post