CHENNAI: From spreading rumours to posting unverified information to create mass frenzy, social media trolls have done it all. The latest in the line of fire is the State-sponsored mass Measles-Rubella (MR) vaccination drive. Now, the State government has been forced to warn the trolls spreading canards about the vaccination drive with criminal action.
The State decided to crack the whip after a group of government doctors knocked at the Chief Minister’s Grievance Cell with a complaint against a Coimbatore-based ‘healer’, Bhaskar, levelling allegations against the vaccine. He has been claiming that the vaccine contained disease-causing organisms. “This is done only to cause life-threatening diseases in children,” he charges in one of his video messages, doing the rounds on the social media and on instant messaging platforms.
The State Health Department is gearing up for the first-ever mandatory MR vaccination drive from February 6 to February 28.
Dr T Satva, a young government doctor, who once served in rural service, along with a few others, lodged a complaint with the CM’s cell urging for stringent measures against people trying to sabotage a massive welfare campaign. “Such unscientific messages are a threat to public health. In my 10 years of practise, I have not seen cases of measles, polio and small pox. This is only due to the sustained vaccine drive,” he said.
Since the doctors of this age have not seen any such cases, they are ill-equipped to treat the diseases. An outbreak would prove disastrous for the entire community. Dr Satva cited the example of Malappuram district in Kerala, where two teenagers died and 20 were diagnosed with diphtheria. This, he said, was due to the anti-vaccination propaganda. To prevent a repeat of it here, officials should take action against these campaigners, he added.
Indicating this to be a motivated campaign, Dr K Kolandaswamy, Director of Public Health, noted how the MR vaccine that was licensed to India in 1983 is at the centre of the campaign after all these years. “Till now, it was administered by private hospitals, but now the government is doing it free of cost. This is not a handiwork of one person, but of many groups,” he added.
Most parents lack understanding of these preventable diseases, rued Kolandaswamy, explaining how vaccines help wipe out the diseases completely. “There are three types of vaccines: live attenuated (weakened), killed and toxoid (inactivated toxins), which are prepared according to the nature of the organism. Once vaccinated, the child will develop immunity against these diseases,” he said. The government is targeting 1.8 crore children during this drive, he added.
Meanwhile, Health Minister Dr C Vijaya Bhaskar has warned of stringent legal action against those who spread false propaganda.