26 Mar 2016

Uganda outlaws non-vaccination for children

4:00 pm on 26 March 2016

A new Ugandan law will require parents to vaccinate their children against common diseases or face jail.

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Photo: 123rf

President Yoweri Museveni signed the new law on 10 March, forcing parents to vaccinate their children against several life-threatening diseases, including polio and meningitis.

Parents who failed to immunise their children would face six months in jail.

The new law would also require children to have an immunisation card to allow them to go to school.

Although the Act was signed into law in March, it has only just been made public.

Health Minister Sarah Achieng Opendi said the new legislation would help the government reach its vaccination target.

Some parents and members of a religious cult had refused to allow their children to be vaccinated, she said.

The World Health Organisation estimated in 2015 that 70 of every 1000 children in Uganda would die before they reached the age of five.

Ms Opendi said 3 percent of Uganda's children had not been immunised.

During sensitisation campaigns, some children had been found hidden in slums by their parents to avoid the exercise, she said.

Some religious leaders had previously been arrested but could not be charged because there was no specific law, Ms Opendi added.

The cult that refused to immunise their children was known as 666 and was growing, she said.

"It started in a few districts in eastern Uganda, but now it has spread and now we are seeing it all over the country," the minister said.