February 17, 2021 | Written By: Sobana Nair
The Anti Vaccine Threat
Anti-vaccine movement is not something new. Since 1800, people have rejected vaccination for chickenpox - taken from skin blemishes of smallpox patients. Among the many reasons they rejected the vaccine includes hygiene issues at the time and it’s safety. Some establishment even foreseen it as a violation to religious law - a blasphemy. By the 1970s, vaccines for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis were also rejected by some communities because they were rumored to cause neurological diseases.
In Malaysia, diseases such as whooping cough, diphtheria and tetanus have onced successfully been eradicated throughout the country, by the late 2000. However, due to the anti-vaccine movement, these diseases have reappeared and pose a threat not only to children in our country but also to high-risk adults.
The Ministry of Health Malaysia (MOH) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have stated that anti-vaccine poses a threat to the world. The baseless assumption and false accusation made by these few anti-vaccine members are not only being embraced amongst themselves, but also conveyed to the community and people around them. Hence encouraging a wider group of the population to reject vaccines. Finally, due to the existence of the anti-vaccine group, the herd immunity that has been built for ages, begins to shamble. Making diseases that have been prevented for years, risen once more.
This anti-vaccine movement is very dangerous and you can see for yourself what is happening in the Philippines where there is an increase in cases of measles by 700% which is 5120 cases as per last year (2019). When the cause of this sudden increase in cases is identified, it is mostly because many children do not receive the necessary vaccine. If we allow the anti-vaccine group to continue spreading their influence to society, our country will again be attacked by various diseases - that are dangerous and fatal. This can prove to be detrimental.
What Are Vaccines?
Vaccines are made from the same pathogen that causes the illness. For example, the measles vaccine contains the measles virus, and the Hib vaccine contains Hib bacteria. However, the pathogens in it are either killed or weakened. That is why you can get the injection without getting sick. Some vaccines contain only part of the pathogen such as proteins components found on the surface of the germ cells. Vaccines are usually given in the form of injections. But there are also vaccines given orally.
Vaccines reduce the risk of contracting infectious diseases by triggering your body's natural defenses to build advanced protection prior to a real infection. In other words, vaccines stimulate your immune system to produce antibodies, just as if you were exposed to the disease.
Once you get the vaccine, you are immune to the disease - without having to catch the disease in the first place. If by any chance, you are exposed to related diseases, the probability of getting complications is very low, which allows a faster recovery and thus lowering the mortality rate.
Now, we have vaccines to prevent more than 20 life-threatening diseases. Immunization has prevented 2-3 million deaths each year due to diseases such as diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, influenza and measles.
Anti Vaccines & Their Arguments
Anti vaccines are individuals that rejected vaccination due to their beliefs, perceiving it as dangerous. They are convinced that vaccines carry diseases and are not safe for children. Among few other factors resulting to their disapproval includes their shared distrust towards doctors, technology and science.
Notably, the decision to postpone or reject a vaccine affects public health. As it compromises the state of herd immunity that is shared by the rest of the population. Consequently threatening the state of health for many children and adults, especially those at risk such as:
Some parents are reluctant to vaccinate their children for many reasons - propagated by anti-vaccine groups. Among the reasons and accusations to reject vaccine injections are:
1. Vaccines can cause autism if their children receive too many vaccines. The aluminum content in the vaccine is accused to cause autism. However, aluminum in vaccines is very low, in fact, far lower than the amount of aluminium in breast milk consumed by infants (for up to 6 months), the food, and drugs taken throughout our daily life. Major reports and authentic scientific research has proven that vaccines do not cause autism.
2. In addition, there is also a belief that if other people's children have received the vaccination, their children no longer need one. This is wrong because their children are still susceptible to an infection individually and most likely yields to severe complications such as death. The more people adhere to this mentality, the weaker the society’s herd immunity.
3. There is also concern that the vaccine carries many serious side effects. The fact is, vaccines rarely cause serious side effects. The most common side effects after receiving the vaccine are usually pain of injection and fever. Although other adverse events following immunization (AEFI) have been reported, the percentage of AEFI cases reported annually is very low and does not exceed 1% of the total dose given for that particular year.
4. There are also a handful of people who are worried about the content of vaccines. The fact is, the vaccines we are using have been approved by a lot of organisations such as FDA n NPRA which mean they are safe to be used. The exception is for live pathogenic vaccines that should be avoided in patients with weakened immune systems. Other ingredients are merely preservatives, stabilizers and adjuvants that were clinically proven to be harmless.
5. In Malaysia, most of the doubts that arise regarding the use of vaccines were superimposed by the report of non essential vaccines containing remnants of porcine (pig) DNA. The 81st Muzakarah of the Fatwa Committee by the National Council for Islamic Religious Affairs Malaysia, which was conducted on 31 March 2008, discussed the Law on the Use of Biothrax Vaccines and Rotateq Vaccines Using Porcine Elements in the Production Process. The Muzakarah has ruled that the use of BioThrax (anthrax disease) and Rotateq (rotavirus disease) vaccines is not allowed and is not given to Muslims in Malaysia because:
There are meningococcal vaccines that are also an issue. Marketed as the Menactra vaccine. The 81st Muzakarah agrees that the use of this vaccine is permissible, as no raw material components containing animal sources or ingredients that are doubtful from an Islamic perspective are used. As well as no relation - throughout its processing - with a non-halal vaccine products.
In addition to the above vaccines, other vaccines especially those selected for our national immunization schedule are halal to be used - as a compulsory disease prevention mechanisms. However, due to the anti-vaccine movement and superimposed misrepresentation, many parents are deceived to view all vaccine products as non-halal, hence opted to not vaccinate their children at all, eventually causing a new outbreak of infectious diseases in Malaysia.
Anti-vaccine is a threat to worldwide health. It starts with the baseless assumptions spread by individuals who do not want to accept the truth. Even though it has been proven successful and safe before their very eyes. Therefore, you should be vigilant and always make sure the information received is authentic before spreading it. Last but not least, don't forget to follow your child's national vaccination schedule! If there is any doubt, then ask your doctor rather than trusting social media.
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