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Fake medical records to avoid vaccination

April 11, 2019
topic:Child rights
tags:#Bosnia and Herzegovina, #immunization, #vaccination
located:Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia
by:Katarina Panić
One baby died of measles in Bosnia and Herzegovina this month, another one is in hard condition. The epidemic is announced. Immunisation is not only free but mandatory. Yet, some parents find ways to avoid both vaccination and paying fines.

More than 200 cases of measles have been recorded in Bosnia and Herzegovina; a dramatic increase compared to the 86 cases last year.

“There were 3,000 infected and one death in France last year. So, if we compare it to Bosnia and Herzegovina, where, with a much smaller number of infected, we record a single death, it is certainly a big warning”, Victor Olsavszky the head of the World Health Organization /WHO/ in Bosnia and Herzegovina told media.

According to WHO, more than 80,000 people in 47 of 53 European countries contracted measles in 2018, with 72 deaths. The total number of people infected with the virus in 2018 was the highest this decade, three times the total reported in 2017 and 15 times the record low recorded in 2016.

“Despite more children in the WHO European region being vaccinated against the disease than ever before, progress on vaccination is uneven between and within countries. This leaves clusters of susceptible people unprotected”, the BMJ, leading general medical journal reports.

Given that the WHO recommends immunisation coverage of 95 percent, Bosnia with rates fall between 40-50 percent in some areas is likely to be one of these clusters. A young couple lives in my neighbourhood in the north-west town of Prijedor. He is a basketball coach, and she is a pharmacy technician. They have two daughters, two and four years old. Sometimes they share the playground with my three daughters (ten, seven and one and a half years old). She asked me once do we vaccinate our children and I confirmed, while she declined. I didn’t ask her why, but how.

“Somehow. I simply don’t take them there (the vaccination centre) and every time when I get the admonishment from them, I call a friend of mine who is a practitioner and this person gives me a medical record which says the kid is ill or the kid has an allergy or so. I know, I’m buying a time, this couldn’t last forever, but who knows”, she said.

It is imperative to vaccinate against 10 contagious diseases: diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, measles, rubella, mumps, tuberculosis, hepatitis B and diseases caused by Haemophilus influenza type B. I just took a look at my youngest daughter’s health card. She was given injections nine times so far and she is going to be injected a few more times in the beginning and at the end of the elementary school and one more time during secondary school. The older daughters have even more injections since some of these vaccines were not mixed but separated previously and it took nearly every month during first and a half year of their lives to get all the compulsory vaccines. Moreover, two of three are over-vaccinated as the paediatrician recommended to protect them against pneumococcus since they started to go to nursery when they were one year old. I did my best to try to get such vaccine in my country, but it turned to be impossible, so I had to take the little ones in another country and get the vaccine against this bacterium in neighbouring Croatia.

Although the law in Bosnia and Hercegovina oblige the paediatricians to report every single parent who refuses to vaccinate children to health authorities, it is not regularly the case. Some of them give their patients more time to think about it, some are afraid their patients will choose another paediatrician, some rely on the centre for vaccination, as they are the main instance in the issue. On the other hand, there is no state-level ministry of health in this country, but 13 different ministries of health on different levels (entity, district and canton levels).

Dozens of parents who didn’t vaccinate their children are being called every year to do that and only a few of them are being fined (up to 1,000 EUR) since the court proceedings are long and time-consuming. Serbia, Albania, Montenegro, and Greece are among the top 10 most vulnerable countries in Europe, as well as Romania, and they are not geographically far from Bosnia and Herzegovina. Still, the higher fines as Montenegro increased them up to 2,000 EUR, are questionable.

“Parents who decided not to vaccinate their children – at least all of them I am familiar with - have been already thought twice and considered all the consequences. And money, that is something they think about the least”, Montenegro-based journalist Dušica Tomović told to local media after paying such a fine herself.

Geeta Narayan, the head of UNICEF in Bosnia and Herzegovina, told to local media she understands parents who are exposed to a multitude of information from all sides, stressing that two weeks ago, the results of the newest ever-ever global study were published, which included 600,000 children as a sample and which confirmed that there is no connection between the vaccine and autism.

We’ve been ordered by health authorities to check the vaccine status once the measles epidemic is announced. Among 150 children in central kindergarten, there were at least six non-vaccinated against MMR and our paediatrician called the parents not to bring their children here until they get the vaccine. Some of them reacted furiously. I would really like us to have the same law that Italy just adopted”, Gordana Jekić Prijedor’s public nursery and kindergarten principal told to FairPlanet referring the country which just banned unvaccinated children from schools after measles outbreaks.

Back to WHO statistics, there has been no case of measles in developed countries France, Italy, Germany for three years in a row, and the infection is returning now.

“The only explanation that can be found is that there is a decrease in interest or appetite for immunisation. If we look at the Nordic countries, Denmark, Finland, and even closer to us Hungary, where coverage is over 95 percent, we have no recorded cases of illness," Victor Olsavszky, the head of the WHO in Bosnia and Herzegovina said.

Article written by:
Katarina Panić
Katarina Panić
Bosnia and Herzegovina Croatia
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