Zimbabwe Health Officials Say Not Moving to Compel Vaccination by Sect Members

Harare, Zimbabwe - Zimbabwe's Ministry of Health took exception Friday to reports saying it might move under the Public Health Act to compel members of religious sects which are opposed to vaccination to allow their children to be inocculated.

Thirty-two children have died of measles in recent days in Manicaland and Masvingo provinces, most from families belonging to the Apostolic Faith Sect which has determinedly resisted government vaccination programs.

Officials told VOA that while the ministry is concerned by the rising number of children succumbing to measles and other communicable diseases, it is still trying to persuade parents to allow their children to be vaccinated.

Health Minister Henry Madzorera refused to be drawn into the debate, saying only that reports as to a recourse to law did not come from his ministry.

But some health experts say the ministry should not hesitate to use the law as it would save the lives of the children whose families belong to such sects, not to mention other non-affiliated children who risk being infected.

Physician Douglas Gwatidzo of the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights told VOA Studio 7 reporter Sandra Nyaira that the Public Health Act is there for a reason and should be used to protect the population.