KAMPALA – The Ministry of Health will late this month roll out the Hepatitis B vaccination in 14 districts in the central and eastern regions.
The State Minister of Health for general duties Ms Sarah Opendi said the vaccine is free of charge in all government facilities.
The minister explained that the key objectives of vaccination programmes is to protect susceptible people from contracting the infection or developing severe forms of infection and from reducing viral or bacterial disease circulation in the population.
As much as vaccination has been repeatedly demonstrated to be one of the most effective interventions to prevent disease worldwide, there is a rising trend of vaccine hesitancy among the Injiri cult  in Uganda.
World Health Organization says vaccination currently saves an estimated three million lives per year throughout the world and so tops the list in terms of lives saved, making it one of the most cost-effective health interventions available, but followers of Injiri cult claim the Bible forbids them from taking their children for vaccination.
Mr Paul Wozaba, who subscribes to Injiri cult, says apart from being against biblical teachings, some childhood vaccines are linked to serious side effects that include autism, food allergies or cancer.
He explained that there is something inherently evil about vaccination and that as Injiri they see vaccination as “the mark of the beast”, a ritual perpetuated by governments of the time.
Reports on vaccination refusals have been an issue in Uganda and Injiri cult that has spread all over the country, fuelled by misconceptions about the effects of the drops, injections – that they could lead to infertility and form part of an anti-Christ agenda.
During the 2016 polio immunisation campaign, over 20,000 refusals were reported in Uganda particularly from Injiri cult followers.
The Injiri cult believers say that there’s a long history of opposition to childhood vaccination, from when it was introduced in England in 1796 to protect against smallpox and that many of the themes played out more than 200 years ago still resonate today.
Mr Wozaba, a fanatic follower of Injiri in Mbale, warned his local community in one of his Saturday sermons to stay away from foreign-funded programs like vaccination/ immunisation, education, Identity card registration and census.
“I must tell my brothers and sisters that finding a cure for an epidemic before its outbreak is not allowed in Injiri and biblically vaccines are evil because they are made from animals not supposed to be eaten by man,” said Mr Wazaba.
Quoting from the Bible Deut 14:7 Mr. Wozaba says “Nevertheless these you shall not eat of them that chew the cud, or of those who have the hoof cloven: the camel, and the hare, and the rabbit; because they chew the cud but don’t part the hoof, they are unclean to you. And Deut 14:8. The pig, because it has a split hoof but doesn’t chew the cud, is unclean to you: of their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall not touch.”
Mr. Wozaba adds that some of the vaccines are made out of animals, metals and birds the Holy bible forbids man from eating and touching.
“Look at OPV which consists of a mixture of live attenuated poliovirus strains of each of the three serotypes, selected by their ability to mimic the immune response following infection with wild polioviruses, Japanese Encephalitis vaccine [Ixiaro] is got from a monkey kidney [vero cell], the Influenza vaccine [Fluvirin] is got from Chicken embryo, the Polio vaccine [Poliovax] is got from human diploid tissue and Hepatitis B vaccine [Engerix-B] is got from yeast or yeast extract,” Wozaba said.
“You also have some vaccines made out of metals like Aluminum hydroxide, bovine serum albumin, formaldehyde, protamine sulfate, sodium metabisulphite, Amorphous aluminum hydroxyphosphate sulfate, amino acids, dextrose, formaldehyde, hemin chloride, mineral salts, nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, potassium aluminum sulfate, sodium borate, soy peptone, yeast protein which are unhealthy to human beings,” said Mr Wazaba.
Quoting from Mathew 9: 12 Mr Wazaba says he cannot go for immunisation because the Holy Bible in Mathew 9:12 says “It is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick,”
Mr Wazaba, whose cult operates in Busamaga near Mbale town, says their faith does not have a church but a main hall where they just meet on Saturdays for bible teachings and is not involved in any form of prayers, praise or worship.
Mr Henry Wadada also a follower of Injiri cult says science clearly shows that there is a big difference between naturally acquired herd immunity and vaccine-induced herd immunity.
“A natural infection typically gives lifelong immunity, while vaccines only confer temporary (and incomplete) protection. Thus, the idea of vaccine-induced herd immunity is seriously flawed because when the vaccine’s protective period wanes, there is no more herd immunity,” says Mr Wadada.
But a warning echoed early this year, President Museveni thinks that Parents who choose not to vaccinate their children will be punished severely, and the decision treated as a crime.
President Museveni’s warning echoes threats being made around the globe, with the “public health police” coming after those who choose not to vaccinate their children, or make other “non-conventional” medical choices for them.
In Uganda, several parents have been arrested especially those belonging to Injiri cult, fined and jailed for choosing not to have their children immunised but this has not changed anything as the number has kept increasing.
Our freedoms under attack
Mr Wadada and Mr Wazaba say informed consent to medical risk taking is a human right and that besides the biblical teaching they have the right to be fully informed about the benefits and risks of pharmaceutical products – like vaccines – and be allowed to make a fully conscious choice about whether or not, without being punished for it.
What is happening in Uganda could soon be happening everywhere in the World, vaccine choice is increasingly being targeted by many.
“In Uganda Polio, pertussis, measles, Hepatitis B, Whopping cough, TB, Pneumonia, mumps and other immunisable diseases outbreaks have been blamed on those who are unvaccinated, even though the diseases have occurred primarily in people who were vaccinated, and no one seems to be able to fully explain how that is the fault of those who are unvaccinated,” said Mr Wadada.
Mr Wadada however insists, “As a Christian I trust in God for health and healing (as promised in the Bible) both for myself and for my children. And my children are protected by God’s promise not by man’s vaccination.”
Mr Peter Opio, 73, from Pallisa in Apo Pong who has also not taken his children for immunisation says he believes that good health depends more on good housing, food, and hygiene and that not enough is known about the long term effects on the immune system of immunising at a young age.”
“After getting immunisation against Polio in 1970s, one of my children had severe developmental delay and no one could tell me why. I do not feel the immunisation is safe at this time and I’m not willing to take any chances, however small,” said Mr Opio.
But a situational analysis of newborn health in Uganda report 2013 by UNICEF indicates that 200,000 children under five die annually and that of these, more than half die during their first year and 45,000 within the first month of birth.
According to the World Health Organisation, only five babies per 1,000 live births die in developed countries and 42 babies in least developed countries.
A UNICEF report; Keeping Children Alive, Safe and Learning, at least 45,000 newborn deaths occur each year in Uganda, and over half of these deaths happen during the first week of life, mainly in the first 24 hours.
The Permanent Secretary Ministry of Health, Dr Diana Atwine says disease prevention is the key to public health and that it is always better to prevent a disease than to treat it.
Dr Atwine adds that vaccines prevent disease in the people who receive them and protect those who come into contact with unvaccinated individuals adding that they [Vaccines] also help prevent infectious diseases and save lives.
“Vaccines are responsible for the control of many infectious diseases that were once common in this country, including polio, measles, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), rubella (German measles), mumps, tetanus, and Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib),” Dr Atwine.
Dr Muhammed Mulongo of tropical Health centre in Mbale says what is annoying is that the 45,000 children die of preventable diseases which is unacceptable and morally wrong.
“With such a huge young population, the impact of Uganda’s achievements for children influences the progress of the nation, this actually cements the importance of vaccination of all our children,” said Dr Mulongo.
The DHO Manafwa Doctor Gideon Wamasebu says child survival is dependent on several factors including high vaccination coverage and timely receipt of vaccines that ensures optimal immune response to the vaccines.
“Vaccines do more than just boost our immune system against dangerous bacteria, viruses or parasites. Vaccines can help avert millions of premature deaths by preventing the infections hepatitis B, human papilloma virus that cause two leading cancers in developing countries and are essential in an effort to reach the MDG,” said Dr Wamasebu.
Dr Bakyaita Basajja Tebadiba, a senior Health Educator in the department of community health at the Ministry of Health says there are “a lot of mistruths out there about immunisation.”
“We have to fight that reality and try to show that immunisation, vaccination, next to clean water and sanitation is the most powerful public health tool that exists on the planet,” said Dr Bakyaita.
He revealed that child survival is dependent on several factors including high vaccination coverage and timely receipt of vaccines ensures optimal immune response to the vaccines. Yet timeliness is not usually emphasized in estimating population immunity.
Dr Bakyaita says as a ministry they are putting up strategies to improve vaccination practices among the poorest, single, multiparous women and among mothers who do not deliver at health facilities.
“We also intend to use some reasonable force using police to ensure that everyone is vaccinated every year,” said Dr Bakyaita.
The injiri cult is common in eastern region and notorious for being opposed to government programmes such as immunisation and registration of their children in schools because they believe that upon registration the number 666 appears on the face.
They also believe that once exposed to computers and any form of counting, one is likely to have the number 666 on his face.
Injiri cult leaders claim that the Bible forbids them from taking their followers for medical treatment, immunisation and government programmes such as universal education, voting and census.
Injiri cult followers believe that apart from being against biblical teachings, most of the things taught in schools are allegedly linked to autism and are anti-Christ so they don’t allow their children to go to school and hospitals.