Kenyan coastal women shun tetanus vaccination

  Nairobi- Kenya (PANA) -- Rumours and misconception that vaccines were laced with family planning drugs are believed to have caused the low turn-out of women for immunisation against tetanus in Kenya's eastern Coastal Province.
According to a health official, only 38 percent of women were vaccinated last month in the zone with the highest prevalence of maternal and neo-natal tetanus (MNT) deaths in Kenya.
Coast Province's medical officer, Dr.
Shariff, expressed disappointment that the objective of reaching 600,000 women or 90 percent coverage could not attained.
   In a telephone interview Saturday soon after launching  the second round vaccination campaign at Ukunda near the port city of Mombasa,  Shariff attributed the poor turn-out to "lack of a well planned social mobilisation strategy that permeates to the grassroots level"   The medic also blamed misconceptions and rumours spread by a section of the clergy and other religious leaders that the vaccine was meant to prevent women from bearing children.
   Shariff said that the poorest turn-out was in urban centres, including Mombasa district, where only 20 percent of the targeted women were vaccinated.
The highest vaccination rate of 58 percent was recorded among women and girls in the childbearing age in the Taita Taveta district, along the Kenya-Tanzania border.
Shariff expressed optimism that after discussions with religious groups to clear the misunderstanding, the immunisation coverage would improve during the second round, which commences on 18 March and ends on 23 March.
   Shariff urged district commissioners and other leaders to explain that the tetanus toxoid vaccine being used during the current campaign was similar to what expectant mothers routinely receive at the clinics and hospitals.
   He also said that the vaccine is the same one everybody gets at health facilities whenever they have cuts and wounds to prevent contamination.
   Shariff said that MNT was rampant in Coastal Province because early marriages were common while a majority of women delivered at home, in unhealthy environment.
He said the disease can be prevented through a well-spaced immunisation targeting women of child bearing ages of between the age 12 to 49 years, adding that its elimination called for continued immunisation for all future generations.
   To that end, the medic encouraged residents to continue with routine vaccination against other diseases such as polio and other preventable diseases, including tetanus.
   Shariff assured that his department has enough vaccine and disposable syringes and needles to cover the province and that its safety status had been passed by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

16 march 2002 10:52:00

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