Catholics soften stand on Polio vaccine

Thursday August 6 2015


A child receives a polio vaccine. President Uhuru Kenyatta has issued a presidential directive on child vaccination in all 47 counties to ensure all children are inoculated within the next 100 days. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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A Catholic bishop has welcomed the release of the polio vaccine test result as “positive” and an assurance of the safety of the immunisation drive.

Embu Bishop Paul Kariuki Njiru, who heads the church’s Health Commission, Wednesday said the results, which were released on Tuesday, should have come out early to avert confusion.

The statement could help to clear up the controversy that has dogged the national campaign since it began on Monday.

However, his views contradict those of Dr Stephen Karanja, the chairman of the Catholic Doctors Association.

Dr Karanja shared with the Nation a report of a test he said was conducted in April on the vaccine.

The samples used for the test, according to the report, were from his private clinic.

On Tuesday, the National Quality Control Laboratory at the University of Nairobi said the vaccine is safe.

That was after the Catholic Church raised concern over the safety of the vaccine and asked the Ministry of Health to check for any contaminants as was done to the tetanus vaccine administered last year.

The church wanted the vaccine to be examined for the presence of three hormones, which are oestrogen compounds.

“It is regrettable that we have split and confused the public over this matter,” Bishop Kariuki told the Nation by phone yesterday. “It shouldn’t happen again in the future.”

By Tuesday nearly four million children, against a target of six million in 32 counties, were vaccinated against polio, according to the ministry.

The counties were selected after an analysis of those most at risk of polio and those with mobile populations.

The bishop said they had not studied the ministry’s findings but asked the government to not only publish them for the church but also the public.

“We have faith in our system. Therefore, let the results be available to everyone so that if there are questions from any other party, they can be addressed. We do not have personal interests,” he said.

The church had sampled the vaccine for testing and would share its findings with the government, he said.

He urged the government to ensure more stakeholder involvement in vaccination drives to prevent confrontations.