'Mission Indradhanush' is an ambitious countrywide disease-prevention project in India that aims to cover all partially or unvaccinated children aged 0-2 against seven vaccine-preventable diseases by 2020. Owing to misconceptions about immunizing children, several Muslim families in Badaun and Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh are opposing this initiative by the government.
The Uttar Pradesh health department, along with UNICEF, played a great role in motivating people about 'Mission Indradhanush'. As they found that the community members had many doubts, mostly myths, attached to immunization, they turned to religious leaders like imams, maulvis and madrasa teachers as mobilizers or community influencers at the grassroots level.
Officials revealed that the two cities were chosen to be part of the first phase of 'Mission Indradhanush', which was launched in 44 districts of Uttar Pradesh as they have the highest number of partially and unvaccinated children. The health ministry data shows that only 65% of children in India receive all vaccines during their first year of life, and every third child in India is not immunized or is partially immunized. Dr. Deepak Saxena, Chief Medical Officer (CMO) of Badaun, said, "People here refuse to bring their children for vaccination citing reasons like that the child gets fever and develops inflammation at the spot after immunization."
Bareilly-based Wakeel Ahmad Ansari, whose designation is District Undeserved Coordinator, regularly meets religious leaders and requests them to educate the community people about the benefits of vaccination for their children. He said, "There are certain misconceptions among Muslims about vaccination. Not all, but most of the people from the Muslim community who are less educated do not send their wards for immunization. They do not know about the benefits of the vaccination drive. To ensure full immunization of children from the Muslim community, we have contacted the religious leaders as they have a good influence on the community. The religious leaders made an announcement about the benefits of immunization. Large numbers of people from the community benefited from the effort."
Hafiz Zamir Ahmad, Imam of a mosque at Kakrala town in Miyaun block of Badaun district, said, "Now, the imams make announcements about the immunization drive from mosques and encourage people to get their children vaccinated. They also clear the air over the misconceptions about immunization."
Sayyada Ruhi, a community influencer who is also studying law from Bareilly, said, "People refuse to bring their children to immunization camps. Such families are called 'XR' families. XR families are still there but their number has reduced. We really had to make rigorous efforts to persuade them to send their children for regular immunization. We told them the immunization process has nothing to do with productivity, rather it was for the welfare of their wards."
Besides lack of awareness about immunization in the Muslim community, shortage of skilled staff is also a major problem in Bareilly and Badaun districts. Dr. Saxena said, "Though we are short of skilled staff, we are hopeful of completing the target of immunizing 25,882 children and pregnant women in the district in four months under Mission Indradhanush."