When in October 2014 the Government announced it would administer tetanus vaccine in selected areas targeting women between the ages of 15 and 45, the Catholic Church in Kenya raised objections.
Unlike, say cervical cancer that afflicts only women, tetanus is not selective. By itself, that raised eyebrows, leaving many to wonder why the Government had targeted only women in a given area and age bracket.
The objection by the Catholic Church was based on its unshakable belief that the vaccine was laced with a birth control hormone. Repeated denials from the Government did not change the church's stand.
This forced the Government to set up a task force to investigate the claims. From 59 of the samples that were provided by the Government for clinical tests, three tested positive for the birth control hormone. That was never convincingly explained.
Monday, Opposition leader Raila Odinga made serious claims on the tetanus vaccine that cannot be ignored for, if the claim is authenticated, it would amount to a very serious violation of human rights. Through a media briefing, Raila said independent tests conducted on the vaccine by the internationally accredited Lancet Laboratories and the University of Nairobi showed the hormone was present in the vaccine. Raila claims at least 5,000 women cannot bear children unless the process is medically reversed.
Forced sterilisation is unacceptable, more so when the Government is alleged to have had a hand in the whole exercise. It is incumbent upon the Government through the Ministry of Health to clarify the position to an interested public. Vaccinations are not new globally. The eradication and control of diseases like polio, measles, tetanus, diphtheria and many others has been possible through regular and periodic vaccinations.
Future vaccination campaigns should therefore not be jeopardised by fear among citizens that the Government is up to no good. The perception that the Government cannot be trusted to operate above board has already been created, and if parents desist from giving their children vaccinations, a resurgence of the debilitating diseases might be witnessed.
Indeed, while the assumption has been that polio had been eradicated, new cases in Kenya and Nigeria have been reported.