Kenya’s Catholic Church has remained adamant in opposing the new tetanus vaccine on grounds that it is laced with family planning drugs to control population.
The Catholic priests have urged women in their congregations to boycott the vaccine, during the campaign that is scheduled to begin on Monday. The priests argue that the fact that the vaccine only targets women of childbearing age is sinister since tetanus is a disease that is not limited to one gender.
“We want the [Health] ministry to allow the church to sample the vaccines before they are given. We are alarmed because tetanus vaccines tested earlier in the year contained an antigen that could cause sterility in women,” said Dr Stephen Karanja, the chair of the Catholic Doctors Association in Kenya.
VACCINE SAFE SAYS HEALTH MINISTRY
The country’s health Ministry has however refuted the claims by the Catholic Church and maintained that it’s a safe vaccine that targets women in order to prevent the disease from attacking babies at birth.
The tetanus vaccination campaign has been sponsored by the WHO/UNICEF and is targeting girls and women of child bearing age in Kenya (between the ages of 14 to 47 years old).
“I want to assure all the women in Kenya that this is a safe certified vaccine,” said Health Minister James Macharia.
“FISHY TETANUS VACCINE”- CARDINAL NJUE
The controversy surrounding the tetanus jab kicked off in March this year when the head of the Catholic Church in Kenya, John Cardinal Njue, raised the alarm.
“The fact that this campaign only targets women shows that there is something fishy about it, otherwise even men and children should be vaccinated,” Njue said.
According to recent stastistics, a new-born baby dies of tetanus every day in Kenya and the Health Ministry reports that about 550 babies died of tetanus in the country last year.
Tetanus is caused by the bacterium Clostridium tetani, the spores of which are widespread in the environment and according to UNICEF, “it’s an excruciating disease that kills one newborn every nine minutes, or approximately 160 babies each day worldwide. Typically contracted through unhygienic childbirth practices, the disease is swift, cruel and lethal.” 58,000 newborns died of tetanus in 2010 alone.
While speaking to the Kenya Forum earlier this year, Dr John Ong’ech, a top specialist Obstetrician and Gynaecologist in Nairobi, who doubles up as the Assistant Director of Reproductive Health at the Kenyatta National Hospital, elaborated that the tetanus vaccine falls under the WHO strategies to reduce infant mortality rates.
“Considering that majority of the births in Kenya occur at home, the campaign is critical and this particular campaign is what we call a Public Heath Approach which targets a vast population in order to eliminate a threat. It has been done worldwide not just in Kenya,” said Dr Ong’ech.
The tetanus jab has always been mandatory for expectant mothers in the country during the ante-natal clinics and one cant help but wonder, “just what is so diffrent with this one anyway?”