The Maharashtra government’s Measles Rubella (gover) vaccination campaign to eradicate the twin diseases had kick-started on November 27. Although the campaign had achieved 70 percent coverage in the first two days, certain pockets of Thane, especially the Muslim-dominated areas, recorded only five percent vaccination. The campaign failed to take off in these areas due to certain myths about the vaccine. The six-week-long drive has been initiated to protect children between nine months and 15 years. People living in these areas commonly believe that vaccines lead to impotence (erectile dysfunction) and infertility if administered to children.
Thane health officials told TOI that Muslim-dominated areas were opposed to vaccines and only five percent of the children in Mumbra, Kausa and Rabodi in the last two days.MR Vaccine: What Are Measles and Rubella? Why Parents Should Vaccinate Children Against These Diseases.
The menace was started by a Whatsapp forward about the Measles-Rubella drive, which said that the campaign was designed to target Muslims and keep their population in check. The message reads:
"America has sent drugs to India to control the Muslim population. So beware,”
According to a report in The Wire, the rumours originated in the Malappuram area of Kerala from where it spread to the other parts of the country. A Scroll report also mentioned children reportedly dying of diphtheria in the Muslim-majority area since their parents didn’t get them vaccinated.
Such rumourmongering has thrown a spanner in government’s attempts at eradicating deadly diseases. Health officials from Karnataka even started a Facebook campaign to counter the rumours. The Muslim clerics also took it up on themselves to educate the masses when they assembled for prayers at the mosques.
The medical fraternity has actively tried to dispel myths that inoculation causes side effects such as infertility. Immediately after administering the vaccine, children may experience some side effects like fever, joint pain, skin rash nausea or dizziness. But they are all short term and wouldn’t cause any long-term damages like infertility and impotency.
Any licensed vaccine is tested multiple times in phases before it is available for public use. Once the vaccine is in the market, it is regularly reassessed. Scientists are also closely monitoring the effects of the vaccine from various sources, to prevent any untoward event.
Not preventing your child can have devastating consequences. If it doesn’t cause death, it can still cause other effects like blindness, paralysis or encephalitis.
The MR vaccine is safe and is being used in 150 countries to inoculate children against measles and rubella. The vaccines given in India is prequalified by WHO and is routinely administered even in neighbouring countries like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal and Myanmar. Immunising will not only protect the child but also the entire community from the deadly diseases. That’s why every parent should first fact check with their doctors and health care providers about the usage of the MR vaccine.