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Health News of Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Source: Cameroon Tribune

Vaccination, an Absolute Necessity

Many years ago, polio was declared conquered and the reoccurrence of any cases could only have surprised the authorities and opened many eyes to the necessity of keeping very close watch; because, as a popular saying goes, the enemy is never so far away. Not that the national vaccination campaign against the polio virus has been ineffective! It is just that the virus lurks around especially in trans-border areas which means real effective campaigns can only well conducted when groups of countries come together because diseases know no borders.

As the World Health Organisation recommends, the detection of even one case of polio is enough to raise national alarm so that the entire national territory prepares itself for a nation-wide campaign because one which does not cover the national territory and even beyond cannot be really effective. But this effort by the authorities has very often been undermined by numerous acts that hamper the effectiveness of vaccination campaigns. Difficulties in getting through sensitization messages on the good intentions of vaccination have been one of the causes of the low performance of these campaigns and the persistence of some of these health hazards. But the public authorities have also identified religious beliefs as the most important obstacle to getting the targeted populations vaccinated. Very often, vaccination teams have met with stiff resistance from some parents who would not accept that their children are vaccinated on account of their religious beliefs.

A recent attempt by one such groups to attend to children as they came out of a Sunday service in a Douala neighbourhood was met with a violent reaction from members of the congregation, leading to a free-for-all fight. It took the intervention of the security agencies to bring back order; but the parents would not budge! Public health authorities and the forces of law and order are considering using force to enforce this important life-saving health initiative. Cameroon is obviously a State which promotes and guarantees religious freedom; but certainly not when such freedom exposes a great majority of citizens to despicable threats and with the scope poliomyelitis can take if not checked through initiatives such as vaccination.