EDITORIAL: Settle tetanus vaccine row once and for all

Opposition leader Raila Odinga. PHOTO | KANYIRI WAHITO | NMG
Opposition leader Raila Odinga. PHOTO | KANYIRI WAHITO | NMG  

The raging controversy as to whether the tetanus vaccine administered to Kenyan women in 2014 poses a fertility risk to recipients does not augur well for the success of primary healthcare in Kenya.

It is high time the authorities take a good and convincing look at the matter with a view to settling it once and for all.

When the controversy initially began in 2014, two tests were done on the safety of the tetanus vaccine -- one by the Catholic Church and the other by the Parliamentary committee on health.

The Catholic Church has since insisted that administering the vaccine amounted to mass sterilisation of women and should not have been carried out in the first place.

The Health ministry insists the vaccine was safe. Nasa presidential candidate Raila Odinga’s Monday claim that indeed the Catholic Church’s position is true has renewed attention to the matter.

Mr Odinga is a politician of immense influence, meaning that many Kenyans are bound to take his word quite seriously.

It, therefore, behoves the Health ministry to embark on a serious exercise of establishing whether or not the vaccine has the side effect on women without their knowledge or acquiescence.

It is not in the interest of the government to leave the matter in abeyance as it could lead to similar initiatives in future being disregarded with potentially dangerous consequences.

It will be remembered that there was a similar controversy in 2015 on the polio vaccine.

Again it was the conference of Catholic bishops that doubted its intentions, arguing that it was likely to leave children growing up to be infertile.
As it is, even that controversy remains unresolved.

There may still be those who believe that the polio vaccine was indeed intended to control population – by who and for what, nobody knows. It is the same thing with the tetanus jab.

Vaccines are highly critical in disease control, because they prevent infections that would otherwise need to be treated in future.

They cuts costs of healthcare in a big way and improve on the chances of survival of both grown-ups and children. Their integrity must therefor be jealously safeguarded.