Oslo: Muslims fear swine-flu vaccine

Oslo: Muslims fear swine-flu vaccine

Many Muslims think the swine flu vaccine contains pork products.  The District Medical Officer in Alna has now started a campaign to clear up misunderstandings.
This one of the points on the posters District Medical Office Zahid Mukhtar is posting on the doors of medical centers in Furuset.  The posters are written in Urdu and are supposed to deal with the incorrect rumors in the immigrant communities, and to ge more people to get themselves vaccinated.

"As a District Medical Officer I'm surprised at how few immigrants in general, and Muslim in particular, came when we had communal vaccinations in the district.  Then found out that many are skeptical because of several theories in circulation, I thought that somebody should take the initiative to inform people," says Mukhtar.

He also met representatives from immigrant organizations, to get them to talk in mosques and other meeting places.

"We know that several immigrant groups are over-represented when it comes to diabetes and other risk factors.  Therefore it's extra important for these to get vaccinated," says Mukhtar.

Inside the doctor's office sits Muhammad Saleem Rathore (44), waiting for his turn with his wife and the couple's one year old twins.  He says that nobody in the family got vaccinated until now.

"We've gotten information, but didn't have time yet," he explains.  

Q: Did you hear the rumors that the vaccine contains pork products?

A: We know it doesn't.  But some other children in the extended family got some side-effects of the vaccine.  It's also some of the reasons that we didn't get it," says Rathore.

The district medical officer Mukhtar calls on them to get the vaccine anyway.

"We know that especially small children can be strongly affected by swine flu," he says.

The infection control officer in the Oslo municipality, Tore Steen, has also noticed that few immigrants got the vacine.

He says he's gotten reports that some schools in the Gamle Oslo district, with a high immigrant ratio, had low levels of showing up for the vaccine.  At the same time, Stovner, which is the district with the highest ratio of immigrants, is also one of the districts with the highest ratio of vaccinated children.  So he says that the picture isn't completely unambiguous

According to District Medical Officer Trude Arnesen in Gamle Oslo, it's particularly immigrants of Somali and other African background who barely got vaccinated.

District Medical Officer Mukhtar in Alna thinks that the authorities should have thought about information for immigrant group earlier.

"Now fortunately this pandemic wasn't as serious as many feared.  But it surprised me that nobody thought particularly to inform this group.  There's a lesson here for the future," he says.

Source: Aftenposten (Norwegian)

Related stories:
* Malmö: Immigrants fear H1N1 vaccine
* Oslo: Students harassed after getting swine flu

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