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Strong Turnout Across Zimbabwe in Campaign to Immunize Kids Against Measles

Though participation was high, authorities said one leader of an apostolic faith sect in Masvingo province threatened health workers with a machete, and a few families with religious objections took to the hills to avoid compulsory vaccination

Most Zimbabwean parents have been cooperating with an ongoing national campaign to immunize children between the ages of six months and 15 years against measles and other childhood diseases, with relatively few holdouts.

Authorities said however that the leader of an apostolic faith sect in Bhasera, Gutu district, Masvingo province, threatened health officials with a machete, and officials also confirmed that some families with religious objections to immunization had taken to the mountains with their children to avoid compulsory vaccination.

But by and large most families - including those belonging to such apostolic sects - have complied with the national directive to immunize children, said Blessing Chebundo, a member of Parliament’s committee on health.

Funded by the European Union at a cost of some US$8 million, the program was launched on May 24 by Zimbabwe's Ministry of Health in cooperation with the United Nations Children's Fund and the World Health Organization.

Authorities noted that the current campaign concludes on June 2, and although there may be another “mop-up” round of vaccinations, parents were being urged to seize the opportunity on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Nearly 400 Zimbabwean children have died of measles since late 2009 as outbreaks of the disease have spread throughout the country, in part due to opposition to immunization by religious sects.