Wednesday, November 19, 2014

#Tetanus Vaccination in Kenya; The GoK Must Provide Convincing Answers

#Tetanus Vaccination in Kenya; The GoK Must Provide Convincing Answers
By Nick Waigwa
The second line of a statement released early this year by the Catholic Health Commission, an arm of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops, invited everyone’s attention to the fact that the role of the Catholic Church in Kenya’s health sector cannot be understated.
Signed by the Rt. Rev Paul Kariuki Njiru, Chairman of the Catholic Health Commission of Kenya – KCCB the statement reacted to an ongoing Tetenus Vaccination campaign by the GoK.
The statement was provoked by a tetanus vaccination campaign targeting women of child bearing age between the age of 14 and 47 in Kenya.
News of John Cardinal Njue’s reaction to the campaign went viral on social media platforms, then drawing reactions and counter reactions from across the globe.
I learnt of the issue from a very close but distant friend who posted an opinion on his #facebook timeline. He expressed reservations about the cardinal’s position on the campaign suggesting that Njue had gotten it wrong. My comment which joined a string of other comments under his post did not attract his like, but never mind.
With the dust now slowly settling, I find it hard to let the issue pass just like that without a reaction from the part of me which believes in calling a spade a big spoon.
Accept that I do it now; call it by its name, a spade a big spoon. I am sure the sycophants of the status quo or people who oppose other’s opinions or stand on certain issues will do it here. But you know what? I have come to realize that if you take a stand, others get to discover theirs.
I admire the stand taken by the Catholic Doctors Association led by one Doctor Stephen Karanja, I loved working and listening to this Doctor from the control room at the Catholic radio in Nairobi where he used to be hosted by Joe Murithi (remember the kingo, gray haired man?) for the Waumini Doctor’s show.
I am of a very strong opinion that the Catholic Church led by its leadership and most importantly the Cardinal has a very firm founded moral stair way to raise questions over any issue that may have a counter effect on human life.
In fact the Catholic Church’s persistence and has attracted the attention of policy makers and it is encouraging to learn that an independent test on the said vaccine will be done. Before I forget, the Health Cabinet Secretary should be advised to wake up to the fact the Catholic Church in Kenya is singly expressing concern over vaccine can not be used to justify why the government should continue administering the vaccine.  
As a key stakeholder and not just a holder of the stake in Kenya’s health sector, the Catholic Church has provision of medical services at heart.
Bishop Paul Kariuki Njiru’s statement outlined clearly that provision of medical services is an important evangelization. No wonder Jesus Christ in his mission went on to pray for the healing of the sick.
My opportunity to work with the catholic media since year 2000 brought me close to the leadership of the church in Kenya, most importantly the Cardinal. I might have not interacted on one to one with him but I have done so with his firm position on certain issues. He has a very strong position against anything that can harm or terminate human life… in one of the prolife spot messages which used to air frequently at the Catholic Radio Waumini in Nairobi, he states clearly that “life is God given.”
I have no doubt in my mind that prior to his move to question the tetanus vaccination exercise, the cardinal had thought about it. I opine that concerns raised by the church are valid and should not be taken lightly. His position and that of the leadership of the Catholic Church can not just be wished away.
According to Catholic Church’s health Commission
“Information in the public domain indicates that Tetanus Toxoid vaccine (TT) laced with Beta human chorionic gonadotropin (b-HCG) sub unit has been used in Philippines, Nicaragua and Mexico to vaccinate women against future pregnancy. Beta HCG sub unit is a hormone necessary for pregnancy.
When injected as a vaccine to a non-pregnant woman, this Beta HCG sub unit combined with tetanus toxoid develops antibodies against tetanus and HCG so that if a woman’s egg becomes fertilized, her own natural HCG will be destroyed rendering her permanently infertile…...
The ongoing tetanus vaccination campaign bears the hallmarks of the programmes that were carried out in Philippines, Mexico and Nicaragua.”
 What the Catholic Church in Kenya is simply saying is that “We are not certain that the vaccines being administered in Kenya are free of this hormone.”
The Church is simply playing her moral responsibility and the government should give an acceptable to all parties clarification regarding the following concerns; is there a tetanus crisis on women of child bearing age in Kenya? Why does the campaign target women of 14-49 years? Why has the campaign left out young girls and boys? Is tetanus the most urgent life threatening disease in Kenya today?
I agree fully with the acknowledgement by the Catholic Church that maternal and neonatal care is imperative in prevention of death. I also like their call to the government to work with all stake holders and provide adequate and clear information to the general public to avoid misinformation and propaganda in regard to the tetanus vaccine.
Let us call a spade a spade! Although not all questions get good answers, pertinent queries have been raised by the Catholic Church’s leadership in Kenya on the ongoing tetanus vaccination campaign in Kenya; let the Government of Kenya provide convincing answers.
The debate around the issue is healthy and the public will now get to know more, he stood for public participation and I am sure the Government has some lessons in their notebook to take home.  
Although I have my doubts on a possibility of an honest, fair and independent test of the vaccine free of influence from the would be forces behind its likely long term impact on Kenya’s population, I hope the Government of Kenya and all the other interested parties will emerge from “KEMRI” for a joint press/public conference with a joint statement to clear the air.
Nick Waigwa is a Nairobi based Independent Media professional and Radio Technical Trainer

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