Kenya: Immunising against tetanus is one of the strategies that the World Health Organisation (a United Nations body formed to look at world health) recommends as among the integrated management of pregnancy and childbirth. Annually, 110,000 deaths occur as a result of tetanus infection on children.
WHO says a tetanus vaccine also known as TT/Td is safe to give during pregnancy.
It is therefore quite shocking that the head of the Catholic Church in the country should be among those advising against giving this important dose to pregnant women.
John Cardinal Njue is opposed to the fact that the vaccine is being given to women only. He claims that there is something fishy about the vaccine.
Many expect a person of his position to know better and to tread carefully when it comes to such issues. Indeed, the medical fraternity has dismissed the claims that there is something fishy about the vaccine. They have equated the opposition to the vaccine to that shown to the polio campaign.
Kenya has scored highly in the prevention of maternal deaths in the region, one of the Millennium Development Goals. In spite of that, a ministry of Health report in 2010 shows that maternal deaths were on the rise. At least 480 preventable deaths wererecorded for every 100,000 births. This is still high. Such opinions as those of Cardinal Njue counter efforts such as those by the First Lady Margaret Kenyatta in the Beyond Zero campaign that has won great admiration.
We hope that the position of John Cardinal Njue is not the stand of the Catholic Church in Kenya. And if it were his personal opinion, a person in his position must surely know the weight his words hold and be more cautious about what he says. Because when he speaks, many hold onto every word he utters and take it as gospel truth.