Islamabad - A bill that aims to make the universal immunisation mandatory and to provide security to people employed as health workers for vaccinating children in the federal capital was discussed.  

The bill proposes to bound parents to complete primary vaccination before the child attains the age of six months. It also suggests to bar schools and religious seminaries to give admission to children who have not completed vaccination courses. In case of non-compliance it proposes fine up to Rs25,000 and imprisonment up to six months.

In a Public Hearing organised by Chairman Senate Standing Committee on the National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination Senator Sajjad Hussain Turi, participants debated various clauses of the Bill.

The Islamabad Mandatory Vaccination and Protection of Health Workers Bill 2015 was tabled by Senator Ayesha Raza Farooq in April that was referred to the Senate Standing Committee on NHSRC for further scrutiny.

According to the bill, children will be vaccinated at airports, railway stations, bus terminals and entry and exit points of the capital. Every health facility shall, on a monthly basis, maintain a record of vaccination activity in the area.

Following enactment, the law will ensure every child is vaccinated and Union Council and National Database Registration Authority (NADRA) would not issue a birth certificate or Form-B for a child who has not been given the required vaccination.

Information about vaccination or exemption should be mentioned in the birth certificate and parents would not be able to admit children to primary schools unless parents or guardians produce a vaccination certificate or an affidavit promising to provide a certificate within six months. The bill also proposes penalties for hate mongers who spread baseless rumours about vaccination.

The Public hearing was organised in connection to collect diverse feedback on the Bill. Senator Sajjad Hussain Turi invited a select gathering of parliamentarians, civil society representatives and journalists to give their concrete feedback and comments on the Bill. Senator Ayesha Raza Farooq gave the context of the Bill while representative from Pakistan Institute of Parliamentary Services Aslam Waseem presented the legal aspects of the Bill. Dr Tahir Masood, President Pakistan Pediatrics Association gave a comprehensive presentation on significance of Immunisation and need of legislation for Immunisation in the country. He also presented the case of Pakistan and situation of immunisation in the country. Mehnaz Akabr Aziz, representative civil society and National Child health consortium extended support of civil society for the initiative.

Senator Farhatullah Babar while commenting on the Bill suggested inclusion of a recommendation to recognise the health workers and giving civil awards to the deceased polio workers who lost their lives in line of duty.

He also shared valuable comments on various clauses of the Bill. Senator Osman Saifullah and Shehryar Afridi also appreciated the efforts.

Diverse comments and feedback was shared by the participants that were recorded by the committee for review.