Members of the Kabonokia sect from Tharaka-Nithi have fled their homes in a bid to avoid polio vaccination for their children, citing their religious beliefs which are against the use of conventional medicine.
A survey by the Nation revealed that most of the parents had fled to Kitui County with their children.
A resident, Mr John Mutegi told Nation.co.ke that during the last vaccination exercise, many members of the sect crossed over from Tana River to the neighbouring Tseikuru and Muumoni districts in Kitui with their children until the programme was over.
He said some neighbours could not be seen and were suspected to have run away from their homes with their children to escape the exercise.
“I have not seen two of my neighbours since Monday and I suspect they could have fled the vaccination,” said Mr Mutegi.
He said many children of the sect members have not been vaccinated.
“Some of the families have more than 10 children and none of them received the vaccination at an early age because their faith does not allow any form of treatment,” he said.
Tharaka North Public Health Officer Njagi Murata assured the Nation that they have had put in place measures to ensure that all children under the age of five years receive the vaccination.
“They will not hide from us. Last time we followed them to the thickets and forcefully vaccinated their children,” said Mr Murata.
He maintained that the vaccination is not optional and all the children under the age of five years must receive it.
Mr Murata said he will not relent until all children who escaped the last exercise are vaccinated.
In Tharaka North, health officials target to have vaccinated 10,746 children by Wednesday evening as the exercise comes to an end.
Close to two million children under the age of five in 13 counties are targeted in the new polio vaccination campaign.
Head of Immunisation at the Health ministry Collins Tabu said last week that the latest campaign mainly targeted children who missed out on the routine immunisation.
“We are targeting Marsabit, Isiolo, Tharaka-Nithi, Wajir, Mandera, Garissa, Lamu, Tana River, Turkana, Narok, Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gishu, and West Pokot,” said Dr Tabu.
A nationwide vaccination drive targeting nine million children is set to start on April 9, 2016.
It has also emerged that nearly 300,000 children miss out on the vaccination annually