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Resistance to Measles-Rubella vaccination in MP schools, madarsas successfully resolved

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Special Correspondent

Shivpuri:  It’s about 9.00 am in Shivpuri town and the Measles-Rubella vaccination rounds – being conducted by MP health department under National Health Mission – have just started in private schools in district headquarters. This is when Sunil Jain, coordinator of the MR campaign at district hospital gets a frantic call from the local Rangarh Rainbow Primary School.

After listening to the phone call for few minutes, Jain decides to go over to the school immediately. The mood in a small waiting room in the private school is clearly apprehensive and nervous. As soon as Jain is introduced, parents and grandparents lob a volley of questions at him.

“Would the child get fever or swelling or some other problem after the vaccination,” Shailendra Shrivastava, father of Hansika, a class 3 student asks. “No there would not be any such problem. The child would be under observation for half hour after the vaccination."

"I have already gotten 17,000 kids in the city vaccinated and not a single problem has been reported,” Jain explains and continues with other details like availability of trained medical staff and medical kit to him.

Soon, Shrivastava’s resistance could be seen melting and little later, Hansika is vaccinated in his presence. “My daughter is getting treatment for her anaemia. How can I get her vaccinated?” Seemozar Siddiqui, father of 11-year-old Saba asks. Jain tells her that he could consult his daughter’s doctor and get her vaccinated later at any health centre.

Similarly, the queries of Preeti Dande, Khursheed Khan, Preeti Bansal and Amjad Khan are answered satisfactorily and they get ready to get their respective kids vaccinated. Amjad’s elder daughters in other schools heard from their class mates that some children died after vaccination and the father was quite apprehensive, but Jain manages to convince him with logic and facts.

A little away in Eastern Heights Play School, Brijbhushan Rai, father of Lower KG student Aradhya waves a publicity pamphlet of health department on the campaign, that mentions chances of slight discomfort for the kid but that they would be under observation.

“You have yourself written there could be problem and I read in newspapers about two kids falling sick in Gwalior. How can I be sure if it is safe? I don’t want to get him vaccinated,” Rai declares. Another round of counseling and information sharing ensues and Rai gets ready to get Aradhya vaccinated.

The presence of Dr Megha Prabhakar, ENT specialist and mother of a co-student Gatik and her additional information helps ease out the situation better. In Sirat-e-Mustaqim Madarsa at Shikari Chowk, 34 out of the 84 enrolled kids had been vaccinated in first hour of the round starting.

“Not everyone is forthcoming, though we have called the parents to be present personally during the vaccination. However response is better than expected,” principal Kishwar Sultana shares. Anganwadi worker Shahida Bano, who is also present, mentions that it took a lot of convincing for the parents to consent for the vaccination.

District immunization officer Dr Sanjay Rishishwar accepts that there has been some resistance from section of parents, especially after some negative news in Gwalior newspapers. “But we are managing to convince most of them. The bigger issue is that of private school teachers, who seem to be quite apprehensive of the drive".

"For this we have appointed a 3-member special team of doctors who visit the schools before the vaccination schedule date, counsel the teachers, answer all their queries and orient them to the campaign,” the DIO says. Shivpuri has a target to immunize 6 lakh chidren under the MR campaign supported by the UNICEF, WHO and UNDP.

The chief of UNICEF Madhya Pradesh office, Michael Juma appreciates the efforts. ”Sustained and targeted Measles-Rubella campaign by NHM and partners are positively generating social behavior change and increasing demand for vaccinations even in remote areas which evidently have inspired the rapid uptake of MR vaccination in the state. The results achieved so far on MR vaccinations are encouraging which need to be accelerated with a view to ensure that all children aged between nine months to 15 years are vaccinated.”

Sravani Sarkar

Sravani Sarkar has been a journalist for over two decades. In the past, she has worked with Lokmat Times, Indian Express & Hindustan Times.