Kerala: Nearly 5 lakh children miss polio vaccination, Muslim-majority Malappuram sees only 54% vaccination

Vaccination drive/ Representational Image, via Al Jazeera

Nearly 5 lakh children in Kerala have missed out on getting Pulse Polio drops as parents were not ready to take the children to the centres in Muslim-majority areas of Malappuram district, reports Mathrubhumi.

According to the reports, the Kerala health department could not administer pulse polio drops to 4,90,645 children in the polio vaccination drive held on January 19. The polio vaccine was not administrated to 46 per cent children in the pulse polio immunisation drive held on January 19 in Malappuram district, which also recorded the least number of administration in the state.

It is pertinent to note that Malappuram in Kerala has one of the highest concentration of Muslim population and according to Census data nearly 70% of residents of the district are Muslims.

Earlier, the health department had planned to administer polio drops to 24,50,477 children in the state. Among them, the polio vaccine was given to 19,59,832 children on January 19, which covered 80% of children. At the same time, 20 per cent of children were not vaccinated.

A total of 23,466 polio vaccination booths were opened in the state in various places, including KSRTC bus stand and railway stations.

However, it was reported that parents did not want to take their children to the booths for vaccination. It is not just Malappuram, but parents in Kasaragod and Palakkad also ignored the vaccination drive.

As parents did not bring their children to polio booths, the health department officials have decided to visit their houses and administer polio drops to children till Tuesday. At the same time, attempts are being made to make parents aware of the need to vaccinate children.

“Polio immunisation aims to check the disease which makes the person paralysed for a lifetime. This is not an injection. It is just dropped which is 100 per cent safe and there are no side effects to it. Every child should be taken for polio vaccination to completely prevent polio in the state,” said Dr B Padmakumar, a professor in Alappuzha medical college.

There have been many cases of Muslim communities being opposed to immunisation drives, not only in India but across the world. India’s success in eradicating polio by the Pulse Polio program was possible after collective efforts by several organisations to convince Muslim clerics and leaders to create awareness among their community members. Mass vaccination drives have often found resistance from Muslims, due to superstitions and a prevalent belief that the vaccines are against their religion, or may make their children sterile.

In rural Pakistan, Muslim locals have even killed and tortured health workers trying to administer vaccines to children against deadly diseases. Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria are the only nations in the world where polio has still not been eradicated. In Indonesia, Muslim clerics had even issued a ‘Vaccine Fatwa’, claiming that the Measles-Rubella vaccine carries products derived from pig’s body, hence they are ‘haram’.

There have been instances when the vaccines are also dubbed as ‘RSS Vaccine’, alleging it is an RSS conspiracy to make Muslim children impotent. The Muslim community often fears that the administration of vaccines to young children will cause sterility in the future. There have cases of students fleeing from schools when vaccination teams arrive at schools, or locals threatening the teams to go back.

The dangerous phenomenon of Muslim communities objecting to vaccinations was also seen in the state of Uttar Pradesh in 2018 when many madrassas across the state of Uttar Pradesh had denied permission to health department officials to enter their campuses to administer Measles-Rubella vaccines to students after falling for rumours claiming vaccination could expose children to deadly and contagious diseases and also could make children impotent.

OpIndia Staff: Staff reporter at OpIndia