CHENNAI: The directorate of public health has filed a complaint with the state medical council against a doctor and moved the child rights commission against three others for spreading misleading messages on the ongoing measles-rubella vaccine drive.
Officials have also filed a complaint with members of the state cybercrime unit, who are now tracking down people who posted messages on social media, which the health department says had slowed down the vaccination programme. “By now we should have vaccinated at least 45 lakh children. But we have been able to vaccinate less than 35 lakh children because parents are scared of side-effects, including death,” said director of public health Dr K Kolandaisamy.
On February 6, the state launched a mass drive to vaccinate more than 1.8 crore children between 9 months and 15 years in schools and health centres. Although the state targeted the vaccination of at least 10 lakh children a day, many parents and schools were in two minds after seeing messages on social media. “Many messages said children fainted and had bouts of vomiting after the vaccination. One message said girls in Madurai died after vaccination. It had photos of girls lying down on school benches. It was very scary,” said Mahima Ashok, mother of a nine-year old girl.
Health department officials said there were no adverse reactions to the vaccine in the last one week. “The children whom we have vaccinated in the first two weeks will be our ambassadors for the programme during the mop-up campaign where every child will be covered,” Kolandaisamy said.
The live, attenuated vaccine is administered as a 0.5ml dose through the subcutaneous route on the right arm by doctors, nurses, anganwadi workers and volunteers. “These social media posts may even affect the routine vaccination programme. We have decided to deal with it sternly,” said a senior health official. “We found some doctors campaigning against it too. We have filed a complaint against one doctor with the medical council. We will be filing cases against three more,” he said.
After the month-long drive, the measles-rubella vaccine will replace the measles vaccine for children under two years in the state. The drive will be introduced in other states in a phased manner.