May 16, 2004

Mogae seeks "emergency powers"

President Festus Mogae has authorised the Ministry of Health to craft a new law to deal with parents who refuse to have their children immunised following the resistance met at the anti-polio campaign. Health Minister Lesego Motsumi will therefore to draft an impromptu Extra Ordinary Regulations under the Public Health Act to deal with parents who refused to have their children immunised against polio. "These regulations are to be drafted in order to make vaccination of all children under five years of age, resident in or visiting Botswana, compulsory during the National Immunization Days," Dr. Jeff Ramsay, government spokesperson said in a statement.

Last week, parents in the Bazezuru community and Apostolic Church spurned government attempts to have their children vaccinated against polio citing religious reasons. According to Bazezuru and some members of the Apostolic Church, religion forbids them from using modern medicine. But the government, which sounded harsh over the weekend, sent warning bells to those bent on defying the anti-polio campaign. The position of government on the matter is that diseases like polio are contagious, which calls for health controls to keep the general public from danger. "The polio virus, if unchecked, poses a clear and present threat to the most fundamental right to a healthy life of not only all Batswana, but indeed humanity itself," the statement from Ramsay said. It added that it is important to do a mopping-up exercise in the country after a case of polio was reported in the Ngami District. The country was declared polio free 13 years ago following the success of previous immunisation drives. (Mmegi/The Reporter, Gaborone)

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