The Ministry of Health has launched dialogue with members of a “ retrogressive” sect which discourages its adherents from seeking medicare in Mwingi sub-county in order to immunize children from the sect.
Medical authorities in the area told the media that they have decided to engage the Kavonokya sect leaders to help upscale the immunisation uptake in Waita, Lundi and Mwingi Central areas where majority of the sect members are based.
Speaking on Tuesday to the Kenya News Agency at the Mwingi Level 4 Hospital, the Sub County Medical Officer of Health Dr Boniface Kimuyu, said that during mass vaccination campaigns they negotiate with the sect leaders to allow their followers to make independent decisions regarding immunising their children.
‘The court ruled that it was against the law to force somebody to be immunised despite being a constitutional right for children under the age of five years,’ said Dr Kimuyu.
The MOH said that medical authorities in the area have recorded marked improvement from the sect after holding talks with the leaders.
‘Some of the sect members are accessing family planning and immunisation services under the cover of darkness for fear of reprisals from the sect leaders.’
For fear of reprisals and stigmatisation by their fellow sect members, Dr Kimuyu disclosed that upon request they have an arrangement where the fingers of the immunised children or their houses are not marked.
‘The sect does not have a physical church where they meet but are known to operate from sect members’ homes. It is difficult to trace or track them as they move from house to house and are a very secretive group,’ added the MOH.
In 2015, the Sub-County recorded 84% full immunisation which dropped to 79% this year following the prolonged doctors’ and nurses’ industrial strike seeking better perks.
Commenting on the uptake of ante-natal clinics in the peripheral health facilities, Dr Kimuyu said deliveries shot from 20% to 60% within a period of two years.
‘The sharp increase was attributed to improved healthcare, equipping the facilities and decentralisation of health services within reach of wananchi,’ noted the MOH.