PESHAWAR: As pediatricians call for ensuring that every child is vaccinated during the routine immunization campaigns, the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Vaccination [amended]Act, 2017 now empowers vaccinators to lodge an official complaint against refusing parents.
The West Pakistan Vaccination Ordinance, 1958 states that a magistrate can punish a refusing person, parent or guardian with simple imprisonment of up to three months or with fine which may extend to Rs100.
However, the law has now been amended. A notification issued on January 18 states that under the K-P Vaccination (amended) Act, 2017, the district supervisor vaccinators (DSV) are hereby declared as superintendent of vaccination for the area of their jurisdiction, and they could issue a notice to refusing persons to vaccinate their kids within seven days.
“If such parents or guardians still fail to vaccinate the unprotected child after issuance of the notice and expiry of the deadline, the superintendent of vaccination shall report the matter to a 1st class magistrate,” the notification reads.
The act declares medical superintendent or incharge of health facilities at union council levels, superintendent of prisons concerned, incharge of Darul Amaan and principals and heads of schools as vaccination officers.
It reads the vaccination officers are bound under the act to enforce all unvaccinated children are vaccinated, adding that chairmen of the provincial expert review committee and the district review committee notified for classification of Acute Flaccid Paralysis (AFP) cases are authorised to declare a child unfit for vaccination.
Keeping in view their performance and in order to boost immunisation, the K-P health department has tasked the workers involved in anti-polio campaigns to register children and mark the immunised children during the routine immunisation campaigns and follow-ups.
With diarrhea a major killer of children in K-P, the provincial government introduced vaccination against the disease in the routine immunisation programme.
Pediatricians, however, say the laws were already in place and amendments could have a very little impact on vaccination drives.
“How many parents do you think have been refusing vaccination? About 2% or let’s suppose 5%,” said Dr Amin Jan, the former president of the Pakistan Pediatric Association K-P chapter. He called upon the government to ensure the rest of 95% immunised.
“The law [against refusing parents]should be the last card. The government should rather focus on motivational steps so that parents themselves bring their kids for vaccination against different diseases,” Jan told The Express Tribune.
He also urged the government to adopt another strategy – be offensive and refuse admission to health facilities until and unless parents or guardians produced vaccination cards.