Measles Drive Boycott- 22 Held

Nairobi, Kenya - Twenty two members of a religious sect have been arrested for refusing to take their children for measles vaccination.

They were seized after medical personnel conducting the exercise in Taita Taveta District reported the matter to the police.

Area police boss Angelus Karuru said the sect members declined to comply with a government order to take children aged five years and below for the just-concluded immunisation against the disease claiming that doing so was against the teachings of their faith.

The religious group that operates in Mghange and Mwanda locations in Wundanyi Division, turned away medical personnel who had gone to vaccinate their children.

"If these people are serious with what they believe in, they should let the children to be immunised since they are too young to subscribe to any faith," Mr Karuru said.

The district medical officer of health (MoH), Dr Shem Patta, said it was discovered that all the sect members' children - some as old as 15 years - had never been vaccinated against measles.

He said 30 cases of measles had been reported in the district although there had not been any deaths related to the disease.

Such controversial religious sects have also hampered the campaign in Ol Jororok and North Kinangop in Nyandarua.

Nyandarua MoH Robert Ngunjiri said 72,664 children had been immunised.

"Some sects preach against the immunisation of children in their churches. They condemn the exercise saying it has demonic inclinations," said Dr Ngunjiri.

Some sects in Kinangop are said to have urged their followers to prepare themselves for the end of the world.

In Nakuru, more than 42,000 out of the targeted 49,000 children in the municipality have been immunised, according to district MoH George Ngatiri.

Dr Ngatiri said this was 85 per cent of the targeted children.

He said the turnout was impressive in Mauche, Kamara and Mau Narok and that the campaign would continue despite the expiry of the deadline.

In Bomet, more than 97,000 children were vaccinated.

Bomet MoH Joram Marachi said the figure surpassed the targeted 64,000 children, thus registering a 140 per cent coverage.

Dr Marachi attributed the high number of children to effective mobilisation.

Briefing journalists yesterday, he said children from the neighbouring Narok and Trans Mara districts contributed to the high turnout.

The children were also given vitamin A supplements to boost their immunity against preventable diseases.

The exercise, carried out at 59 health facilities and selected posts, was conducted by 236 health workers and volunteers.