A New Law in Uganda Will Jail Parents Who Don’t Vaccinate Their Kids

April 4, 2016 | Kelly Tatera

A child receives an injection to his shoulder
Photo credit: Gabe Bienczycki, USAID

Zero tolerance.

As the result of an extreme new law signed this month by President Yoweri Museveni, parents in Uganda will now face up to six months in jail for failing to vaccinate their children.

Additionally, children will be banned from going to school unless they have an up-to-date immunization card, and this includes all relevant boosters. Uganda isn’t the first to implement a law concerning vaccines in the schoolplace — as of January 1st, 2016, no children in Australia will be admitted to child care, pre-school, or kindergarten without having been vaccinated.

SEE ALSO: No Vaccines? No School.

This extreme vaccine law in Uganda is an attempt to stop the spread of deadly diseases like polio and meningitis in the country. The current problem is so bad that 70 out of every 1,000 children in Uganda will die before they turn five.

In addition to hopefully lowering the rate of these preventable deaths, the new legislation will also target the torchbearers behind a growing religious cult called 666 — a group spreading anti-vaccine ideology throughout the country, urging parents to not vaccinate their children and even going as far as hiding kids in slums to avoid immunization.

"It started in a few districts in eastern Uganda, but now it has spread and now we are seeing it all over the country," health minister Sarah Achieng Opendi told the BBC about 666.

One of the key anti-vaxx arguments is that it shouldn’t matter if some parents choose not to vaccinate their kids if other kids have been immunized and protected. However, just like most other medications, no vaccine is guaranteed to be 100 percent effective. This means that some children will still have the chance of getting infected by diseases even after being vaccinated, and young babies and children with compromised immune systems who can’t be vaccinated for health reasons are particularly vulnerable.

The new Ugandan law was passed a few weeks ago on March 10, but there’s still not much information on what exactly the legislation entails and who or if anyone will be exempt. However, the country is sending a loud and clear message to the masses — there will be zero tolerance for anti-vaxxers.

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