Why the catholic church in Kenya is boycotting the new polio vaccine

The first installment of the administration of the new polio vaccine in Kenya for 2015, has been widely successful thus far. However, the Catholic Bishop of Kenya, Archbishop John Cardinal Njue, recently called for a boycott because the vaccine may contain estrogen agents.

The vaccination exercise which started in 2011 has led the country to a current zero status in active polio cases, and has been condemned by the Catholic Bishops as having reactive agents that could cause sterilization in children, which is in direct opposition of the Church’s stance against family planning methods. However, the Catholic Church has been advised to stay away from issues it has no authority on, in this case, healthcare.

With the controversy surrounding the polio vaccine in Kenya, there is every likelihood that the absence of new cases will spur the people to choose science over religion. In 2014, Catholic Bishops in Kenya, also voiced concerns on the WHO-sponsored vaccines provided against tetanus. They insisted that tests found a miscarriage-causing antigen concealed in the vaccination. In addition, the campaign targeted Kenyan women of childbearing age and left out boys, men and younger girls who were also at risk of tetanus infection. Although tests later revealed the vaccines were safe.

The polio immunization campaign was scheduled for 1st-5th of August in 32 countries while another round will take place from August 29th to September 2nd in 11 countries. So far, the first drive was successful as many Kenyan residents did not heed the directive of the Catholic Bishops and other healthcare experts who have a different opinion on the safety of the vaccine as well as the intentions of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UNICEF. In fact, this report from Dr. Sylvia Njugu of the Ministry of Health and her team, proves that only a handful of parents said no to the vaccination out of more than 1,500 children her team vaccinated in five days.

The National Chairperson of the Kenya Medical Association, Dr Elly Nyaim says; “Polio vaccines have been proved scientifically to protect children from polio. We call on Kenyans to ignore the boycott call and turn out in large numbers to immunize their children from this deadly disease”. “We don’t want to be like Nigeria where polio spread rapidly after religious leaders there campaigned against polio vaccination. The safety of the vaccine is beyond doubt”. “Any attempts aimed at mobilizing the public against taking their children for vaccination is a serious violation of the right of children to health and survival”.

“This is not a quarrel as we are partners with the ministry and when the church has spoken, do not under-estimate its voice, they should listen to the shepherds” says Dr Stephen Karanja, Chairperson of the Kenya Catholic Doctors Association. Arguments like these are said to be based on safety, an issue of concern for both a few medical experts and the Catholic Bishops of Kenya, who have refused to be deterred by outrage and criticism as well as law suits because of their boycott.

In 2011, there was an organized attempt by the US’ Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to apply fake vaccines against hepatitis B to gain access to now dead terrorist, Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan. This has somewhat lent strength to anti-vaccine proponents who see vaccination campaigns and administration as grand schemes by the West to serve a higher, nefarious purpose.

But is everything a scheme? Following the controversy surrounding the 2013 claims of fake polio vaccines in Nigeria, then Minister of Health, Dr. Mohammed Patte said that there was no empirical evidence to substantiate claims that the vaccines were harmful and contaminated.

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