BANDA ACEH, Indonesia – Dozens of worried mothers on Tuesday took their young children to clinics in Banda Aceh in northwestern Indonesia to be vaccinated against diphtheria, amid a nationwide outbreak of the disease that has killed four people in Aceh province.
Some 30 children – aged between several months to three years – and their mothers were seen Tuesday morning at the Integrated Health Service Post in the capital of Aceh province.
Most mothers were nervous about the outbreak of the respiratory illness and probed the clinic officials for advice to safeguard their children against the disease, an epa journalist reports.
“I’m worried about the outbreak after I saw news about it on TV, so I brought my boy to the clinic to be vaccinated,” said Zubaidah, 26, mother of a 9-month-old boy.
In some other parts of Banda Aceh, four children under the age of 4 years were being treated for diphtheria at local hospitals, Rahmi Mardiana, Gampong Mulia Village clinic head told epa.
She added that the children were brought to the clinic from a district in eastern Aceh where health facilities were inadequate.
Since January 2017, a total of 93 cases of diphtheria have been recorded in Aceh, including the four deaths, with all the cases affecting children under 14 years of age, Abdul Fatah, head of Aceh’s provincial health office, told EFE.
The disease has spread to 12 out of Aceh’s 23 districts, but the rate of infection is decreasing, he added.
Provincial health authorities have been isolating diphtheria cases through hospitalizations and health personnel have been dispatched to all sub-districts of affected areas for vaccination campaigns, Fatah said.
He added that 95 percent of the affected children were not immunized against the disease as their families were concerned over the potential side-effects of the vaccinations.
Some had not allowed the children to be vaccinated as inoculations are considered to be un-Islamic.
Aceh province is one of the most conservative regions in Indonesia, where Islamic Sharia law is in force and criminal offenses can be punished with public canings.
Elsewhere in Indonesia, too, the authorities Tuesday began a large scale campaign for diphtheria vaccination after the disease caused 38 deaths and spread to 25 provinces in the country.
“There are 38 people dead (...) they are people who were not immunized as children,” Jane Soepardi, the director of surveillance and health quarantine at the health ministry, told EFE.
The official said that most of those dead are minors, including a 12-month old infant, and were among the 663 cases of diphtheria recorded across the country since the beginning of the year.
On Monday, the Indonesia Health Ministry had started a vaccination campaign for children in Jakarta and parts of Java, which will be extended to other parts of the Indonesian archipelago from 2018 onward.
Diphtheria, an airborne bacterial disease that also spreads through physical contact, mainly affects the respiratory system and can lead to death if left untreated, according to the World Health Organization.