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Kenyan Catholic Bishops Oppose Polio Vaccinations

The international campaign to end the paralyzing and sometimes-deadly disease polio has been weakened in recent years by clergymen in some Muslim countries. They believe the campaign is part of a plot to stop Muslim children from being able to have babies when they grow older. Now, top Catholic clergymen in Kenya are also calling for people to reject the polio vaccine.

In Kenya’s capital Nairobi, workers from the Ministry of Health give shots to children. They are immunizing the children against polio.

Mary Samula is a teacher. She welcomes the workers into her home. She says she wants her new baby to be protected.

The Ministry of Health says it hopes to immunize six million children when its polio immunization campaign ends in early September.

Roman Catholic leaders in the East African nation have called on people to reject the vaccine. But, Ms. Samula, who is Catholic, wants her baby to have it.

“I’d love my baby to be immunized because I don’t want my child to be paralyzed -- that’s the first thing. And also I listen to my own voice. I’d like my baby to grow up as a normal child.”

When the campaign began this summer, Kenya’s Catholic bishops called on people to boycott the vaccines. They said the medicine had not been tested. The bishops also said the vaccines were secretly designed to stop Kenyans from being able to have babies. They had said similar things earlier this year when the government began a campaign to immunize people against tetanus.

Cardinal John Njue is the Archbishop of Nairobi.

“We are in the status where now we must be able to kind of determine our own destiny.”

Dr. Nicholas Muraguri is the director of medical services at the health ministry. He says the bishops have no reason to oppose the campaigns. He says the vaccine is safe.

VOA spoke with Catholic officials in other parts of the world. They would not speak about the decision by Kenya’s bishops to oppose the polio vaccination campaign. They would only say local religious leaders have a responsibility to protect the members of their church. But Catholic church leaders do approve of vaccines. They have said in publications that vaccinations protect lives and public health.

I’m Jim Tedder.

Correspondent Lenny Ruvaga reported this story from Nairobi. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted the report into VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter edited the story.


Words in This Story

paralyze - v. to make (someone or something) unable to function, act, or move. paralyzing - adj.

vaccine - n. a substance that is usually injected into a person or animal to protect against a particular disease

immunize - v. to give (someone) a vaccine

tetanus - n. medical term for a disease that causes muscles, espacially muscles in the jaw to become stiff

destiny - n. what happens in the future

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