Two audio recordings which recently went viral on the internet in Chechnya have caused a major stir in the community. In them, it was claimed that two boys fell seriously ill after receiving obligatory polio vaccinations.
Many parents, whose children are subject to mandatory immunisations, spoke against the vaccination. Rumours that Chechen children are administered untested medicine instead of polio vaccines has only increased the number of parent speaking out against the vaccinations.
The authorities have not taken steps to refute these rumours, which has done nothing to boost public confidence in local doctors. A mother of two children named Luiza stated that she has refused to have her children vaccinated, because she is afraid that if it results in serious side-effects, the authorities will neglect the children just like they do with disabled children.
‘I refuse to immunise my two sons. Prove to me that those who are sick now aren’t sick because of the polio vaccination. They are threatening now not to let unvaccinated children into kindergartens and schools. OK then. They will stay at home. Our ancestors never had these vaccinations. Will the state help me if they become disabled? Of course not’, Luiza said.
The Chechen Ministry of Health has not taken any measures to raise awareness about the need to be vaccinated against polio. Some doctors have released audio recordings on social networks calling for parents to reconsider their decision. One doctor told OC Media that such parents will have to deal with a special commission, which will react to each case individually.
‘Today, there was a meeting in Grozny. Our medical director said that the refusals to conduct vaccinations against polio won’t be acknowledged. Where they occur, the state will cut the person’s benefits. A list of those who refuse should be provided to us. A commission headed by the clergy and the district administration will approach them in order to discuss their reasons for refusal when they receive their child benefits. There should be no unvaccinated children here’, the doctor, who asked not to be identified by name, said.
Since 1995, about 150 cases of polio have been reported in Chechnya six of which have been fatal. There is widespread opinion in Chechnya that outbreaks of the disease are caused by the large numbers of migrant workers from Tajikistan, where the majority of the population has not been immunised.