By Ali Macabalang, Nonoy Lacson, and Bonita Ermac
COTABATO CITY – The Ministry of Health of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (MOH-BARMM) launched this week a fatwa (Islamic ruling) on immunization, underscoring the importance of vaccination in the campaign against preventable diseases.
Dr. Safrullah Dipatuan, MOH secretary, said the fatwa was approved and signed by 13 religious leaders of the Regional Darul Ifta Tuesday morning.
“Immunization prevents deaths and suffering from vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles, tetanus, polio, pneumonia, hepatitis, diphtheria, rubella and mumps,” Dipatuan said.
Saving lives is a holy act “we must do in pursuit of our faith,” he added. Official data of the MOH showed that as of March 10, about 45,598 target infants and children in BARMM have already been administered with anti-measles vaccines.
BARMM covers Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi provinces, the cities of Marawi, Cotabato and Lamitan, and 63 barangays in six North Cotabato towns.
The MOH data showed that measles cases in BARMM declined to 361 confirmed cases in the first quarter of this year from 1,260 cases during the same period in 2018.
Across the country, however, measles deaths have hit a new high, with 286 fatalities recorded from Jan. 1 to March 2 of this year, representing a seven-fold increase over 39 measles deaths recorded in the same period last year, the Department of Health disclosed last Tuesday.
Together with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Dr. Zul Qarneyn Abas, MOH deputy minister, said they tapped the Regional Darul Ifta to issue the fatwa after discovering that many parents in BARMM refused immunization because they were unsure if vaccination was consistent with their faith.”
The MOH and the UNICEF had conducted two conferences – one for the island provinces and another for the mainland provinces – in preparation for the issuance of the fatwa on the legitimacy of vaccination per evidence found in the Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah.
Dr. Abas assured that immunization is permissible from the Islamic perspective noting that “the vaccines are halal.”
“The best gift we can give to our child is a full immunization certificate,” said Farid Dastgeer, a child protection specialist of UNICEF.
With the fatwa on immunization, the Health Ministry is hoping to increase the immunization rates across the Bangsamoro region.