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Burmese government begins uninformed vaccination campaign

Posted: September 11, 2013 |   Comments

( On Monday, Burma initiated a nationwide vaccination program in attempts to prevent elephantiasis. Elephantiasis is a disease characterized by the thickening of the skin and underlying tissues, especially in the legs. A major cause of the disease is roundworms transmitted to humans through mosquito bites. Elephantiasis is relatively rare; a random test of 3,000 people in Rangoon by the Department of Heath this year showed that only five people had contracted the disease.

In some places throughout the country, officials for the vaccination campaign have reportedly described the risks of elephantiasis without giving adequate information about the vaccine. In other places, people are told that they might develop a reaction to the vaccine and that they should visit a doctor if serious symptoms occurred.

One man complained that no nurses or health care experts were present when he received his vaccine. The local leaders and social workers he received the vaccine tablets from failed to tell him that that they could be harmful for people with high-blood pressure, diabetes or asthma. No one told him that children should receive smaller doses; his 5-year-old received the same doses as him, two and a half tablets. He was told one of the tablets was a vitamin supplement to prevent dizziness when it was actually used to treat roundworms.

Side effects of the vaccine include dizziness, drowsiness, nausea and vomiting. According to a physician from Rangoon General Hospital, "Pregnant women, lactating mothers, infants and people with chronic diseases such as liver infection, kidney problems and heart disease should avoid the vaccine, because it can cause life-threatening side effects such as acute inflammation of the brain, visual loss, disorder of the eye due to bleeding in the retina, and severe skin allergy."

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