The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa health department is making immunisation for all vaccine-preventable diseases compulsory by amending the existing law, which covers only smallpox, a disease eradicated in 1979.
The proposed amendment seeks to protect children against all immunisable ailments. The health department has drawn out a comparison of the present and proposed laws and wants to amend Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Vaccination Act, 1958, to protect children against tuberculosis, poliomyelitis, hepatitis B, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, haemophilus influenza, measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, smallpox and pneumococcal conjugate, according to the draft document.
Currently being vetted by law department, the draft law provides for the appointment of vaccination officer by government to ensure inoculation of children contrary to the existing law, which had smallpox eradication officer to issue immunisation certificate and ensure that parents follow full schedule.
The suggested amendment aims to expand scope of vaccination.
It shall be the duty of every local authority or vaccination officers including superintendents of prisons and head of Darul Aman Borstal Institution, Remand Home and other institutions where children are residing and kept to enforce the law so that all unprotected children and persons are vaccinated.
After periodic vaccination becomes due, as provided in the schedule, the parent or guardian shall take children or cause it to be taken to a vaccinator or any other person authorised by government, it says.
The draft law says that such vaccinator or other authorised person shall vaccinate the child and deliver to its parent or guardian a memorandum stating the date on which the vaccination has been performed and the date on which the child is to further vaccinate in accordance with the schedule.
After completion of vaccination schedule, a certificate of protection shall be delivered by the vaccinator to the parent or guardian of such child to that effect, and such child will be deemed to be protected.
The paediatricians, who have recently expressed concerns over deaths and disabilities caused by vaccine preventable diseases, have welcomed the law. They say that there should have been a new set of laws instead of amending the current one, which has become redundant because vaccination against smallpox had been stopped 38 years back.
It lacks actions for violation of the law by parents or guardians.
The architects of the draft legislation say that arrests made under 16 Maintenance of Public Order for refusing polio drops by the administrations in the province has backfired, leading to public resistance in many districts.
“It is a good step since 30 per below five years deaths were caused by lack of vaccination,” they say, adding it is the first right of children to get vaccinated after birth.
Yusufzai, Ashfaq. Law being amended to make immunisation compulsory. Dawn, March 7, 2017.