Published: Thursday, March 14, 2013

Editorial

Vitamin A campaign for children

Insidious rumours should be forcefully countered

We note with some alarm the dissemination of fabricated news surrounding a campaign to distribute Vitamin A capsules among children by the government.

Forces obviously inimical to the government have been spreading rumours through social media and other means claiming that the capsules have been causing children to fall ill and that some have even died. This of course created great panic among guardians of prospective receivers of the vaccine who have been thronging their local health complexes to get their children checked and treated for what have, in most cases, been diagnosed as seasonal illnesses such as cold and fever. Worse still, some guardians have refrained all together from having the vaccine administered to their children.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), children under five years of age affected by vitamin A deficiency suffer a dramatically increased risk of death, blindness and illness, especially from measles and diarrhoea. The deficiency is a major cause of preventable blindness in children in Bangladesh, according to Unicef. Thus, failure to administer the vaccines in time — among children aged six to 12 months and one to five years — could have severe detrimental consequences for them.

The malicious rumours are not only in very poor taste but could have significant negative consequences for the health of our children. The government has done well in its attempts to reassure the people that the capsules are safe as certified by WHO-recognised international laboratories and that, though they may have some regular side effects, these will subside in a day or two and are not fatal. We denounce those spreading such falsehood which puts the lives of our children at risk and ask that parents and guardians find out the health needs and risks of their children from genuine sources instead of being influenced by vested quarters with ulterior motives. We would also encourage the government to continue with the campaign and reassure people to do the same in the best interests of their children.