Vaccines tend to be attributed as a miracle of modern medicine while it actually has been practiced hundreds of years ago. Where Buddhist monks develop immunity against snake bite venom by variolation (smearing an offensive or infection source on a skin tear). This method again used by Edward Jenner in 1796 using cowpox virus inoculated onto a 13 year-old-boy. Ultimately eradicating smallpox globally by 1979, a well-known vaccine success story. Though this information of vaccine history is widely available, there are still groups of individuals who oppose vaccination efforts and even as far as labeling themselves a part of the anti-vaccine movements.
Anti-vaccines vs Vaccine hesitant
It is important to differentiate between the two as individuals that fall under vaccine hesitancy can still be persuaded towards vaccination programs. Vaccine hesitancy is categorised when someone postponed or refused getting vaccinated despite its availability to the public. Scientists agree that decision making surrounding vaccination are a complex mix of psychological, spiritual, cultural, political and cognitive factors of an individual which are difficult to pinpoint. However, physicians that build a unique trust with patients are still the best authority in swaying their beliefs towards vaccine acceptance. A study shows the best tool of persuasion is not relying solely on facts, medical professionals should approach this discussion with honesty regarding its side effects, maintain trust, reassure patient’s protection and validate their concerns carefully.
On the other hand, anti-vaccines are people who oppose vaccination programs for a variety of reasons. They tend to be vocal about their distrust against vaccines and often recruit others to join them. This article will further explore while rebutting myths, accusations and fear mongering talking points carried by this group.
Vaccine; Myths vs Facts
- Vaccine and Autism
This fear is a result of an infamously flawed study published in 1997. The paper was published in The Lancet, a prominent journal and claimed that the (mumps, measles, rubella) MMR vaccine correlates with an increase in Britain autistic children. It has since been retracted from The Lancet and the medical license of responsible practitioner was revoked. This is because more recent and eligible studies concluded that MMR vaccine has never caused autism. The true causes of autism in children are yet to be found and not to mention autism can be seen even in utero, long before vaccination was administered.
- Vaccines Contains Harmful Chemicals
Consumers nowadays are more health conscious especially about the things they eat and what enters their body. This is not necessarily a bad thing when it comes to having a healthy and balanced diet. Anti vaxxers piggyback this trend of conscious consumerism, claiming that vaccines carry harmful chemicals such as formaldehyde, aluminium and mercury. There is some truth to the statement, some vaccines do contain formaldehyde but only in very small amounts that it does not even result in any health related complications. This information is confirmed and tested by FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and CDC (Centre for Disease Control) in the United States. In fact, we actually produce and interact with higher traces of formaldehyde produced by our own metabolic system.
- Vaccines Questionable Efficacy
The public confidence in the vaccine is being tested more and more during this COVID-19 pandemic. Typical questions are:
- If vaccines work, why do we still have to comply with social distancing regulations?
- Why do people still get infected even after vaccination?
- Isn’t natural immunity better than acquired immunity from vaccinations?
For the first question, vaccines really do help in curbing the spread of disease. Nonetheless, in order to successfully reduce the rate of transmission, better hygiene, sanitation and social distancing regulations need to be done side by side. This is especially important when there are still thousands of people who are ineligible for vaccination such as babies for COVID-19 vaccines and severely immunocompromised patients with most vaccines.
Secondly, vaccines created only work based on specific pathogen strains. This is evident in the seasonal flu vaccines. As mentioned, the flu vaccine is not a one shot solution for various flu variants. Hence, medical experts will collect data and specimens to identify which strains are prevalent in the country and suggest different flu vaccines every year.
Last but not the least, natural immunity is not necessarily better than acquired immunity. Such is in the case of measles infection, it is true that you can gain immunity once you get infected. However, this method has a very high risk of death which is 1 in every 500 cases compared to measles vaccine which does not cause any fatality in healthy children. Weighing these odds, it is highly irresponsible for parents to expose their children to the aforementioned risk.
- Medical and Bodily Rights
Each individual does have their own rights to refuse treatments, medications or even vaccinations. What anti vaxxers fail to realise is that the vaccines are not only for their protection, it is for those who are not eligible for vaccines as well, especially children. Besides that, rejecting preventive measures of disease such as vaccination will make them prone to be affected with much more severe infections complications. This actually puts more burdens on the limited resources of the healthcare facilities. It also prevents people who are more reliant on them to be displaced, for example cancer patients who are on treatment. The argument for bodily rights is both harmful and selfish.
Vaccine opposition is a serious public health issue that requires prompt and appropriate measures. A 2020 research reveals distrust on vaccination mainly stems from public mistrust in experts, believing they are acting on bad faith and it does not relate to the people’s competence or technical understanding regarding the subject. Therefore, governmental bodies should always allow a two-way communication with the public and allow vaccine hesitant conveying their views or concerns without prosecution.
It’s advisable to take Covid 19 Vaccine.