15 Nov 2010

Zimbabwe police assist with door-to-door vaccination after sect children die from measles

The Sunday Mail - Zimbabwe January 10, 2010

Police in door-to-door vaccination drive

Sunday Mail Reporter

DETERMINED to control the spread of measles in their district, health officials in Buhera have roped in police to compel members of the Johanne Marange apostolic sect to have their children vaccinated against the killer disease.

Moves have also been made to engage the sect leaders on the importance of getting their offspring immunised.

Last month, the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare embarked on an anti-measles campaign following the outbreak of the highly contagious disease, which killed 22 people in Makoni last month.
Most of the dead were children below the age of five years. According to the Public Health Act, children should be vaccinated against measles at the age of nine months.

But members of the apostolic sect in the affected areas, including Buhera, have been resisting the programme citing religious reasons. Buhera assistant district administrator Mr Edgar Zidya last week confirmed that health teams, accompanied by police, have been deployed on a door-to-door vaccination drive.

“We have had to ask for the assistance of the police who accompany vaccination teams because the Johanne Marange apostolic sect members are resisting the vaccinations,” he said.

The acting director of the Department of Epidemiology and Disease Prevention, Dr Portia Manangazira, said the deployment of police was a local strategy to minimise the effects of the disease whose complications may lead to blindness, meningitis or death.

She said authorities have also engaged the Johanne Marange leaders, who have so far expressed willingness to co-operate.

“We have had challenges in the health sector, whose results we now see in these outbreaks. But we are working round the clock to get back on the rails,” she said.

“We have also engaged the Johanne Marange leaders and they have assured us co-operation as we vaccinate the children.”

The worst affected parts of the district are Wards 11, 12 and 13, where several deaths have been recorded mainly among apostolic sect members.

Reports say some members often hide their children from the vaccination teams, eventually leading to the affected children’s deaths. As at Tuesday last week, the district had recorded 56 cases and six deaths. Villages such as Zinhanga, Machemedze, Chikuwe, Chitiga and Chiweshe in Ward 11 have been cited as the centres of the epidemic while Chiweshe and Rupfunde villages have also been identified in Ward 12.

Villages around St Alban’s and St Michael’s Chiweshe are other danger zones. Health officials were on Thursday investigating a suspected case at Nerutanga Clinic in Ward 4.

The identified wards border the Makoni and Marange districts where the epidemic is believed to have started among the Johanne Marange apostolic sect members.

At the Nguruve homestead in Bonde Village (Ward 11) Ms Ketina Matongo, the third wife of Mr Daniel Nguruve, lost her four-year-old daughter, Chenai, on Christmas Day.

Although she said Chenai had succumbed to measles, her husband insisted that a sore throat was responsible for the death. Village head Mr Jaison Zinhanga said attempts by the sect members to conceal information on the health condition of their children was hampering effective vaccination.

“There have been measles-related deaths among children of the Johanne Marange apostolic members in this village,” he said.

“Sometimes they conceal information for fear of getting their children vaccinated because of their religious beliefs.”

When health officers in the two districts responded with a door-to-door vaccination campaign, some of the apostolic members fled and sought refuge among their colleagues in Buhera.

But this only helped spread the disease. District medical officer Dr Monica Glenshaw said authorities were working on strategies to fight the outbreak but refused to divulge further details.

Meanwhile, sources last week told The Sunday Mail that the response to the outbreak had been slow due to inadequate vaccines. The anti-measles campaign, however, later gathered steam after Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), a medical non-governmental organisation working in the district, moved in to assist.

Health and Child Welfare Minister Dr Henry Madzorera acknowledges that Zimbabwe has in the last two years faced primary and secondary course vaccine shortages, leading to disease outbreaks.

This article was found at:



Zimbabwe sect that shuns vaccinations is hiding sick members from health authorities in midst of measles epidemic

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