Malawi: Christian sect in measles vaccine standoff

Blantyre, Malawi - More than 100 members of a Christian religious sect have barricaded themselves in an abandoned building in southern Malawi over their refusal to give their children the measles vaccine, a regional health official said. Members of the Seventh Day Apostolic Church, who remained barricaded on Wednesday, say their doctrine forbids them from taking medication when they fall sick, as they believe prayer will bring divine healing. The week-long standoff in the district of Mulanje follows an outbreak of the highly contagious disease which has killed 48 people in the southern African country this year. Another 9,600 cases have been registered, the government said. Malawi’s government says at least six million children in Malawi under the age of 15 require vaccination against measles. But when it came to vaccinating the children of members of the Apostolic Church, the government hit a brick wall. Church leaders say they believe only God – not medicine – can cure people. “Our church doctrine forbids us from taking any medication because medicines are manufactured by man,” Apostle Hosea Biniwasi, a senior elder of the church, told The Associated Press. “It is God’s will for man to get sick from time to time. By taking medicines are you trying to challenge God?”