In a recent move, the Kerala State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (KeSCPCR) directed the Health Department Secretary to take legal action against those who campaign against vaccination and other immunisation programmes. The KeSCPCR bench consisted of chairperson Shoba Koshy and members K. Nazeer and Glory George. The bench directed the secretary to strengthen preventive measures in the regions affected with Diphtheria. It also said that lack of staff to carry out immunisation or financial issues should not be factors in this issue. Without proper data and proven facts, those who indulge in anti-immunisation/vaccination campaigns will be charged under non-bailable criminal cases.
The direction from KeSCPCR comes in the background of increased diphtheria cases reported in the districts of Malappuram and Kozhikode. There has been a decrease in the number of immunisation programmes in Kasaragod and Malappuram.
Over the last few weeks, there have been media reports highlighting the fact that people are being misguided by particular groups for their benefit. The Kochi Post had also pointed this out in its earlier story on the issue. According to Dr. Shibu Lal, Deputy DMO of Malappuram, fake doctors, who do not even hold proper certificates or qualifications, are making people believe that vaccinations are a waste and should be rejected.
The order can clearly be considered a slap on the face of Jacob Vadakkanchery, the patron of Nature Life International. He has always talked against vaccination programmes and immunisation in the past. Mr.Vadakkanchery has publicly maintained his stand against vaccination in every part of the State, including the diphtheria-hit district of Malappuram. Calling himself a doctor, even without having proper medical education, Mr.Vadakkanchery has been practicing his own way of ‘natural’ defensive methods against diseases. (He recently admitted to the media that he does not possess any medical qualifications.)
The Kochi Post tried to contact Mr. Vadakkanchery, but he was not available for comment.
Kerala is becoming a hub of quacks. Those with very little medical knowledge are donning the role of life savers.
Speaking to The Kochi Post, Ms. Glory said that, “We have passed the order to the Government Secretary. It is secretary who has to implement the law. There is no provision in the current scenario to take action against those who campaign against vaccinations and immunisation. People say that legal action could be taken against those people. So, the Commission feels there should be a law regarding the immunisation process.”
When asked whether any particular person or organisation was found to be behind the campaign against the immunisation programme, Ms.George said, “The Commission has received so many complaints in this aspect. Action was taken with regard to a media report when Diphtheria was found in Malappuram in 2015. In 2016, we received complaints of the same manner. It is not about a single Jacob Vadakkanchery who is involved in this so-called planned attempt to work against immunisation. Whoever talks against immunisation programmes should provide solid proof. These groups have the right to decide whether they need vaccines or not. But they do not have the same right to campaign publicly, as it is a wider issue dealing with the health of a society.”