THE principal director in the Ministry of Health and Child Care has said members of the apostolic sects who shun the conventional health system in South Africa – where they are compelled by law to ensure vaccination of their children – often fled to Zimbabwe where the law was lax.
Speaking on the sidelines of the official launch of the rotavirus vaccine at Parirenyatwa Hospital in Harare yesterday, Christopher Tapfumaneyi said government would, however, not impose such stringent conditions locally, but would continue to reach out to the apostolic sects in an amicable manner.
"We talk to them. That's the best we can do. When you go to our child protection laws in this country, and perhaps do what the South Africans do, you will be arrested. So when the South Africans are in pursuit of some of those religious sects they run to Zimbabwe because we don't arrest people," he said.
"And when they run to Zimbabwe, sometimes they come with problems that end up with all of us. As far as the Ministry of Health is concerned, we interact with them. We will continue to interact with them to try and convince them."
Tapfumaneyi, who launched the vaccine on behalf of Health minister David Parirenyatwa said the ministry had managed to contain outbreaks of preventable diseases and thus contributed to the regional and global efforts to eliminate measles and tetanus.
"There has been a remarkable improvement of coverage from 28% in 1982 to 95% in 2013," Tapfumaneyi said.
The rotavirus vaccination programme will be administered to infants from six weeks for prevention of diarrhoea due to rotavirus infection in two doses which cost $5, but fetch as much as $50 in private institutions.
The virus is the most common cause of severe dehydration in children under one year and accounts for the majority of all child hospitalisations in Africa.
Tapfumaneyi said government had introduced preparatory measures to deal with the Ebola outbreak which is currently confined to West Africa.
"There was training that commenced yesterday (Tuesday) and I believe that there are going to ensure that that every visitor coming, who in the past three weeks was in those three countries that have been targeted, will be looked at closely," he said, adding that those infected would be isolated.