Mothers vaccinate children ‘at night and in secret’ as measles spreads in Zimbabwe antivax cult

Zimbabwe’s government has not released any new figures on the toll of the outbreak for a fortnight. But the speed of its spread and the unusually high proportion of those infected who die is worrying international health officials. Officials reported that 37 children died on September 1 alone.

‘It’s important to just sneak out’

The fear of the outbreak was enough for mothers to visit clinics in secret, sometimes under the cover of the night, without their husbands knowing.

“We encourage women to have their children vaccinated, perhaps at night,” said Debra Mpofu, a member of the Apostolic Women Empowerment Trust, which encourages women to break church rules to protect their children.

“It’s really necessary for the women to protect their children, so it’s important that they just sneak out.”

The risks of getting caught can be significant. Some mothers discovered by Church leaders are ashamed and banned from participating in Church activities. Women are told that vaccinating their children will make them unholy.

Measles is one of the world’s most contagious diseases and the virus causes fever, cough and a tell-tale sign. Other complications can include blindness, brain swelling, severe diarrhea and dehydration, ear infections, or severe respiratory infections such as pneumonia. Complications can be deadly.

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