With Delhi High Court putting a stay on the measles-rubella (MR) vaccination campaign, initially planned to be carried out in city’s schools from January 16, the Department of Health and schools are still struggling to get consent of children’s parents. The High Court on January 22 had made it clear to the Delhi government that the risks of administering measles and rubella vaccine have to be indicated in its advertisements if the drive has to be carried out in schools.
The Department of Health will now challenge the court’s latest decision. Under the MR campaign, the departments of health and education are collaborating to encourage participation of schools. This will include orientation for officers, principals, teachers and students by experts of the Health Department.
“As it is a national policy, we must follow what is being done in other states. Delhi cannot have two separate policies for private and government schools. We will challenge the court’s decision,” Dr Nutan Mundeja, Director General of Health Services (DGHS), Delhi Government, told The Indian Express.
Measles and Rubella are highly contagious viral diseases that spread by contact with an infected person through coughing and sneezing. While infection with measles is followed by high fever, rash, cough and red watery eyes, infection with rubella is followed by rash and low fever. It may be associated with swelling of lymph nodes and joint pain. The World Health Organisation plans to eliminate measles and rubella by 2020. The measles-rubella (MR) immunisation campaign is one the largest in the world, and aims to cover 40 crore children in the age group of nine months to less than 15 years. One-third of all measles-related deaths worldwide occur in India, and the country also accounts for around one-third of all children born worldwide with congenital rubella syndrome (CRS).
The department had planned to cover more than 9,000 schools and 55 lakh children all over the city. A pamphlet explaining the benefits and side-effects of the campaign was circulated by the department to the schools. Around 300 schools have refused to participate in the vaccination programme.
“It was our way of reaching out to parents. The programme is not compulsory for students. Parents who have agreed for the programme can send their kids. An injection will be administered to the child by our health expert,” added Dr Mundeja.
As per the order, all children aged between nine months and 15 years will be provided an additional dose of MR vaccine, regardless of previous vaccination status or history of measles/rubella-like illness.
School heads have been asked to assign teachers to help organise and conduct immunisation sessions in school and coordinate with health workers to conduct vaccination sessions during school timings.
“When the circular came to us, we invited government doctors and parents to have a discussion on the programme. But parents were apprehensive and said they will get their child vaccinated by their own doctor. We again sent a circular to the parents last week, informing them about the initiative. But over 99% of parents haven’t given their consent. We can’t force them to be a part of it,” said Ameeta Wattal, principal, Springdales school.
“We have informed parents about the campaign but most of them are in the favour of getting it done from their personal pediatrician. The decision has to be taken by them,” said Sanghamitra Ghosh, principal of The Mother’s International School.The High Court had sought the reply of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Delhi government and its Directorate of Education (DoE) by January 21 on a plea stating that no person could be deprived of his life or personal liberty.