The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Polio scare after vaccine

Burdwan, Dec. 10: The malady that rocked the polio programme in Murshidabad is now raising its head in parts of this district, a CPM bastion and a model for panchayat development in Bengal.

The pulse polio programme has been successful in pockets of Burdwan but in some, like the Katwa sub-division, it has come to a grinding halt. Barojgram village, for instance, has more than a hundred families that have not been immunised.

Superstition and lack of awareness are again proving to be the nemesis, but complaints of cases where children have fallen prey to polio even after being vaccinated have also gained currency.

In some cases, the villagers have chased the health workers away every time they have arrived with their kits. Some of them claimed that at least 20 children were afflicted with the crippling disease after being vaccinated. Records show there are 27 polio patients in the district.

The district’s health administration is silent on a campaign launched by a local homeopath that the vaccine is dangerous for children. The panchayat pradhan of Barojgram, Kazi Khairul, said superstition and lack of eduction were the reasons behind the state of affairs.

“There are about 20 polio patients in the village and on top of that, there is a homeopath who is spreading word that the vaccine is bad. The woman, who works as a maid in our house, has a son who was attacked by the disease after he was vaccinated. Her story spread panic in the village like wild fire,” Khairul said.

Shahjahan Shaikh, a resident of Barojgram, said his seven-year-old son was forcefully fed the vaccine by the health workers. He has polio now. “I have not allowed them to feed the rest of my children the vaccine,” Shaikh said.

The homeopath accused of creating disbelief among the villagers, Abdul Hai, said the health workers have threatened him. “But those who had the disease even after immunisation are now under my care. I have told them not to take the oral vaccine while my treatment is on,” Hai said.

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