KAMPALA, UGANDA: Stakeholders have called for the protection of children against mandatory vaccination saying parents need to have the preserve to accept or decline vaccination of their children.
The Public Health (Amendment) Bill, 2021 in section 47 (1) (b) states that a local government council shall require any person in the local government to be vaccinated or revaccinated and shall require the parent or guardian of any child, to have the child vaccinated or revaccinated.
On Wednesday, 02 March 2022, officials from Family Life Network, told MPs on the Health Committee scrutinizing the Bill, that the section presented inconsistencies with the Children Amendment Act, 2016.
Betty Byanyima, a member of Family Life Network said the provision limited the rights of children and said that parents should be accorded the right to informed choice in regards to medical interventions on behalf of their children.
“We also recommend that all provisions that discriminate against children and the non-vaccinated, denying them access to education and other services should be removed from the Bill,” said Byanyima.
She cited the 2021 Kiswa Health Centre scandal where some medical workers supplied ‘water vaccines’ to corporate institutions at a cost which she said raised issues on the safety of the Covid-19 vaccine.
She added that Covid-19 vaccines had not followed the traditional protocols of testing and approval unlike other vaccines whose research is carried out for as long as 15 years.
She also made reference to a Hepatitis B vaccination drive for women in 2019 that was later found to issues causing panic among the population that had taken it.
“With children forming 51 per cent of our population, it is not prudent of us as a nation to subject them to vaccination that may have a number of inconsistencies,” Byanyima said.
“Can Government look parents in the eye with confidence and assure them of vaccine safety for their children before the law makes demands for punitive measures regarding non-compliance?” she asked.
In his presentation to the committee on behalf of the Uganda Dental Association, Dr James Magara made mention of vaccination of children in some schools without the consent of their parents.
He added that no follow-up has been done to date to check what happened to the children that were vaccinated and no consent forms were signed or medical reports asked from the children.
“We note that informed consent is no longer being required from those being vaccinated during the on the ongoing Covid-19 vaccination. This is a very dangerous way to manage a national vaccination programme,” said Dr Magara.
He also asked legislators to consider natural immunity against Covid-19 in the Bill, noting that natural immunity is also recognised in section 38(d) of the Public Health Act, 1935.
“It is the mass development of natural immunity through the global spread of the omicron variant that has caused the waning of the Covid-19 pandemic. The variant has been shown to confer strong and lasting immunity,” Dr Magara added.
Committee Chairperson, Hon Charles Ayume tasked the stakeholders to consider Ugandans who prefer clean and healthy environments.
“You have said that children should be given the ability to consent to vaccination, but do you think some parents would be happy if their children mingle with sick children,” asked Ayume.
Hon Elisa Rutahigwa (NRM, Rukungiri Municipality) picked on the issue of natural immunity saying it works but promoting it would mean suggesting that one suffers from the virus so as to get immunity after healing which he added, is risky.
“Those who get natural immunity are those who survive but you could die from the infection. How many of you will accept to first get Covid so that you get your natural immunity?” Rutahigwa said.
Hon Bayigga Lulume (DP, Buikwe County) said there is need to recommend how best to enforce compliance in circumstances where the country wants to prevent its citizens from getting sick.
Hon Nicholas Kamara (FDC, Kabale Municipality) said mass vaccination is key for public health saying the picture of hospital wards filled with children with measles is no longer the case due to vaccination against the disease.