The Ministry of Health has reaffirmed that it does not need to seek parental consent during national immunization campaigns. This comes after displeasure at the government’s failure to seek consent from parents for the immunization of their children during the ongoing Measles-Rubella vaccination campaign.
In one of the cases, two parents of Greenhill Academy, dragged the school to courts of law, on grounds that their children were immunized illegally. The parents argue that their children were immunized without their consent, yet they had already been immunized against Measles and Rubella and hence needed no further shot.
But the Ministry of Health says that the law, takes away the rights of parents to decide whether children can be immunized in national campaigns or not. Dr Alfred Driwale, the Programme Manager of the Uganda Expanded Programme on Immunization-UNEPI explains that while the immunization act gives parents the responsibility to take their children for immunization between the ages of 0-5 years, they have no responsibility when it comes to national exercises.
Dr Driwale adds that while schools might inform parents about the campaign, and explain its benefits, they are not obliged to seek their consent.
Dr Driwale that the decision to immunize learners this year was made following an outbreak that affected more than 300,000 people in the country. Data from the health ministry shows that over 46,000 have been admitted at health centers with 600 deaths reported.
Dr Driwale says that under such circumstances, every child needs to be immunized in the targeted group. He makes reference to the Immunization Act which gives the minister powers to call for a mandatory immunization campaign in case of an epidemic.
According to the law, Parents or guardians of children that do not take their children for immunization are liable to a monetary fine not exceeding 240,000 or a six-month jail sentence or both.
However, Moses Mulumba, the Director of Center for Health, Human Rights and Development, a non-profit, research and advocacy organization focusing on the right to health, says that even when it comes to mandatory government programmes, parents who are the sole caretakers of children should be given the opportunity to give consent.
Mulumba faults the government for failing to provide adequate information to parents before the vaccination exercise began. This he says would make parents more comfortable with the immunization campaign.