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Vaccine scare blamed on sensationalised coverage

Update: April, 16/2014 - 09:39
According to the Ministry of Health's Preventive Medicine Department, 2,492 children have contracted measles since the beginning of the year. Of that number, 25 children have died.— Photo nguoiduatin

by Gia Loc

Many mothers are taking to the internet to complain about the press's handling of the news about outbreaks of measles. In the last few weeks, they have posted their gripes on their Facebook pages and on websites such as www.webtretho.com and www.zeronews.us, among others, even claiming that the Ministry of Health's number of fatalities caused by the disease was incomplete.

According to the Ministry of Health's Preventive Medicine Department, 2,492 children have contracted measles since the beginning of the year. Of that number, 25 children have died.

At an online conference on measles prevention held on April 10, Tran Dac Phu, the department's head, said that more than 87 per cent of the children who had contracted measles had not received a measles vaccine or had no clear history of vaccinations.

Dr Truong Huu Khanh, head of the HCM City-based Paediatric Hospital No.1's neurology and infectious diseases ward, said: "the best way to protect children from measles is to provide the vaccine for them." Two shots are necessary for the vaccine to be effective.

In a related matter, Khanh said many parents had become worried after media reports last year about the vaccine Quinvaxem, which indicated that it could have been linked to a number of children's deaths.

Quinvaxem is a combination vaccine that protects against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, Type B haemophilia, and hepatitis B.

However, later in the year, the World Health Organisation, after conducting an investigation into the matter in Viet Nam, said the children's deaths were not caused by the vaccine.

Some newspapers and websites last year had run sensational headlines about Quinvaxem, scaring readers about the safety of the vaccine.

These attitudes have only served to weaken the city's ongoing measles vaccination campaign, which began on March 7. It targets having 95,000 children in HCM City receive the measles vaccine.

"So the consequence is the continuation of the measles outbreak," Khanh said.

Earlier this year, irresponsible reporting and misunderstandings among the public also caused fear about the A/H5N1 avian flu, when many people stopped eating chicken and duck meat, which led to losses among breeders.

At a conference on disease prevention on February 23, Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam asked media to pay greater attention to the regulations on disease prevention and write reports that contain sufficient, clear information about diseases and vaccines.

Speaking at a conference yesterday on news reporting in the health sector, Dr Nguyen Duc An, a senior lecturer in journalism at the UK's Bournemouth University, urged reporters to thoroughly investigate and double-check information to avoid misleading the public.

"Don't allow your feelings or emotions to interfere with your reporting," he said. —VNS

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