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Freaked out by WhatsApp rumours, madrassas in Western Uttar Pradesh block vaccination drive

Clerics were mobilised to address the matter in their Friday sermons.

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Placing faith in WhatsApp rumours, madrassas at a number of places in Western Uttar Pradesh have refused permission to health workers to administer critical vaccinations to their students. Government officials have mobilised clerics across the region to appeal to the madrassas to ensure that the vaccines are administered to the children.
 
WhatsApp rumours that the critical Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccines could make children impotent was behind the decision of hundreds of madrassas to turn health workers away. In some places, madrassa officials advised parents to keep their children at home at the time the health workers were expected to visit their institution. Madrassa resistance to vaccinations were reported from Meerut, Saharanpur, Bijnor and Moradabad among other places.
 
Health department officials have enlisted the support of Muslim clerics to quell the panic over the MMR vaccines. For instance, Zainus Sajidin, city qazi of Meerut, in his Friday sermon asked all madrassas to allow government teams to carry out vaccination drives. 
 
"The vaccine has no side-effects. It has been tested by doctors of Aligarh Muslim University and Jamia Millia Islamia and no problem was found," he said, reported Times of India.
 
Officials have also stressed that nothing wrong has been reported from the 5.45 lakh children in UP have has been given the MMR vaccine between November 26 and December 14. They have also told the madrassas that the vaccines have been administered to 13.43 crore children across all the states of India.
 
It is not just in India that Muslim clerics have turned away from vaccines over potential rumours. In August, the Indonesian Ulema Council issued a fatwa against the MMR vaccine. This had happened over doubts that gelatin derived from pigs was part of the vaccines. That would make it haram (not allowed). They had asked the Serum Institute of India, the supplier of the vaccines to avoid using gelatin from pigs in the vaccine.
 
However the behaviour of the clerics is at odds with the rulings of a number of global ulema organisations over the years, which ruled that it was a duty for Muslims to get their children. In 1995 for instance, over 100 top Islamic scholars at a seminar held by the Islamic Organisation for Medical Sciences in Kuwait declared that the gelatin used in vaccines was sufficiently purified.
 
However, the opposition to the vaccines in this case is less religious than just blind rumourmongering.
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