Uganda: MPs and stakeholders debate consent to vaccination

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Kampala, Uganda – Members of Parliament from the Health Committee have advocated for the need to allow vaccination of children in schools, where parental consent is not available.

In a discussion with owners of private schools on Tuesday March 15, 2022, MPs noted that it is inconsiderate to let some unvaccinated pupils share classrooms with those who are vaccinated.

Rukungiri Municipality MP Dr Elisa Rutahigwa said some stakeholders presenting views on the Public Health (Amendment) Bill, 2021 linked it to the management of Covid, but it is a comprehensive law.

Rutahigwa said outbreaks are often unexpected and can easily attack schools where prompt treatment would be essential to protect students from disease.

“If you left it up to the parents whether or not to vaccinate your children and you have an infection in your school and you have children who are not vaccinated, would you be comfortable with them mingling with others ? Don’t you think it’s a risk?” asked Rutahigwa.

Ruth Lematia, Maracha East County Representative, said Uganda is doing well with regards to vaccination and adequate information has been provided on the various exercises over the years.

“In the 1980s, children were singing on the radio and TV to tell parents about the need to be vaccinated. Since we started vaccination, we have done well in controlling infant mortality,” Lematia said. .

Eric Senyonjo, the owner of St Anne’s Preparatory School in Kabowa, said compulsory vaccination should not be allowed.

He suggested that it be based on informed voluntary consent, especially for new vaccinations, some of which are still in the trial phase.

“Our children’s parents know their medical history, so they need to be consulted and educated before these vaccinations. Therefore, schools should not be held responsible for the decisions of others,” Senyonjo said.

Section 38 of the Bill seeks to amend Section 38 of the Principal Act by requiring a parent or guardian of every child residing in Uganda to have the child vaccinated by a public vaccinator against diseases which may be declared by the Minister , within 12 months of birth.

Senyonjo also said the bill should recognize individuals or children who have recovered from illness and acquired natural immunity, as vaccinated and given a certificate.

Carol Ssekandi from St Anne’s Preparatory School raised concerns about vaccine injuries to children in schools, saying the bill should consider compensation for such incidents.

She cited the case of an MMR vaccine given to the children of a certain Mulindwa in Green Hill, where the children had previously been vaccinated but they received the vaccine a second time without her consent as a parent.

“As parents, we need to be included before anything happens to our children. We need to be educated about the pros and cons of these vaccines so that we can protect future generations,” Ssekandi said.

Joel Ssebikali, the deputy chairman of the health committee, said some children study in schools far from their parents, which can make it difficult to raise awareness about parental consent.

“A parent is supposed to be responsible for the well-being of their child, but if there is a mass vaccination exercise in a school, do you have to let the child miss out because of parental consent?” Ssebikali asked.

Obongi County Representative George Bhoka Didi highlighted the need to ensure the health and well-being of learners as they spend most of their time at school.

“The actors in the education sector should bring us recommendations that link the draft health law with the draft school health policy for a healthy school environment beyond vaccinations,” said Bhoka Didi. .

Other recommendations from stakeholders related to clause 87 of the bill which provides for a new section which provides for a penalty without prosecution.

It states that “the minister may, in consultation with ministers responsible for home affairs, authority and local governments, make rules for offenses created by this Act or under rules made under this Act, for which a person who commits the offense may be convicted a written notice offering that person the opportunity to discharge any liability upon conviction for the offense by payment of a lump sum penalty”.

Senyonjo said it would deliberately violate human rights and constitutes an act of dictatorship over the masses, adding that it is constitutional that someone be heard before penalizing them.

“The alleged perpetrator should be brought before a committee for a fair hearing because he may have wisdom or a scientific discovery that could help save the masses,” he said.

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