Is Your Child Protected? The Anti-Vaccine Movement: Bad News for Children Everywhere
Imagine this scene: you are being bombarded everywhere by misguided research and maniacal parents, all urging you to give up on vaccinating your child because of clearly unscientific reasons. You look at your little angels, at their innocent eyes blinking up at you with the utmost trust, and you tell yourself: ‘Vaccination isn’t important for my children anyway.’ You might be tempted to make yourself believe that you are doing the best for your child. Don’t!
“The trouble is, humans do have a knack of choosing precisely those things that are worst for them.” This deep insight into human psychology by J. K. Rowling might be helpful in deciphering the reason behind the current nationwide plummet in the percentage of children vaccinated every year. This phenomenon has repeated itself countless times over the centuries, leaving nothing but disastrous consequences for children in its wake.
Vaccination is a fail-safe way of protection and the greatest preventive medical intervention. However, it has always been subjected to deep-rooted suspicion and mistrust by parents. Although it has been proven time and again that the benefits of vaccination far exceed the likely complications, the anti-vaccination movement is still going strong.
Wakefield, in 1998, was the first person to correlate a child’s neurological condition with vaccination and hypothesize that most vaccines were ineffective. Although the evidence was flimsy at best, the resulting hype had many parents ensnared. What they failed to realize was that they were only assigning a worst fate to their own children.
According to Health Day News, modern times have seen a steady increase in parents refusing vaccination for their children in Pakistan. As a health care professional myself, I encounter many parents who unwittingly decide a worse fate for their kid by refusing vaccination. Only the soundest of arguments could motivate them to consider that they might be in the wrong.
The major factors behind the decreasing trend interrelate among themselves and revolve around the parents of the affected children.
For one, the role played by media; research papers correlating autism and MMR are based on mere coincidences. The claims made by the media are not only lacking proper evidence but also poorly researched, serving no other function than to confirm pseudo-beliefs of the masses and further increase suspicions against vaccines.
Secondly, ignorance and illiteracy are other contributing factors; the former is more prevalent in developed nations and the latter in developing nations. Both, however, are devastating in their consequences. Only with accurate scientific knowledge of the mechanism of action of vaccines would one be able to dismiss the poorly constructed rationale of how MMR supposedly causes autism. With limited knowledge of this process, how do we expect parents to understand?
Furthermore, this could lead to mutation of eradicated diseases. With parents refusing vaccination, diseases previously on the brink of eradication, such as polio or small pox, could make a surprise appearance with mutations stronger than ever, ready to send the population into a frenzy.
Then comes a concept known as ‘Herd Immunity': less children being immunized means a weaker herd immunity. This would lead to increased development of easily preventable diseases in children. Furthermore, this could put at risk those children who have a genuine reason not to immunize, such as children with immune suppression.
Strain on healthcare resources must also be taken into account; the cost of treating a preventable disease is higher than the cost of vaccinating for the same disease. A major part of the population being susceptible to easily preventable diseases would cause an enormous strain on health resources, eventually edging them to the brink of collapse.
Every parent wants nothing but the very best for their little bundle of joy. At the heart of this anti-vaccination movement is nothing more than a concerned parent’s need to do right by their children. However, to ensure that they do indeed do right by their children, parents are also obligated to use sound logical reasoning and adequate scientific facts, and to avoid being swept up in someone else’s misguided pace. To save children from a damaging fate, certain recommendations can be suggested from the point-of-view of a healthcare professional.
The role of a nurse: Parents consider their child’s nurse as their most trusted source of vaccine safety information, according to Professor Elizabeth Miller. Therefore, the nurse and other healthcare personnel should be updated periodically. In addition, effective communication and rapport building also contribute to changing the point-of-view of the parents.
The education system: Along with the current generation of parents, the future generation of parents should be armed with the knowledge necessary to detect scams and false research information on their own. To accommodate this purpose, the education system needs to be modernized and reconstructed.
On a government level, to make vaccination compulsory by law can be a way of reducing resistance. While some would argue the importance of freedom of choice, the people who refuse vaccination also pose a risk to others. According to Dawn News, the compulsory vaccination bill has already been released in Islamabad and steps are being made to make it a national one. There is still hope that Pakistan’s vaccination percentage will rise in the future.
In conclusion, vaccination is children’s first line of defense against diseases that could potentially cripple them for life. The anti-vaccine movement could be stopped, and with the help of parents and healthcare professionals, this feat could be managed.
‘Compulsory’ vaccination law passed. (2015, November 25). Dawn News [Karachi].
Miller, E. (2015). Controversies and challenges of vaccination: an interview with Elizabeth Miller. BMC Medicine, 13(1). doi:10.1186/s12916-015-0508-z
Rowling, J. K., & Dale, J. (1999). Harry Potter and the sorcerer’s stone. New York, NV: Listening Library.
Spatiotemporal Analysis Emphasizes Value of Vaccination.” HealthDay News. HealthDay, 27 Nov. 2013. Web. 09 Dec. 2013.
Wakefield AJ, Murch SH, Anthony A, Linnell J, Casson DM, Malik M, et al. Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasive developmental disorder in children. Lancet 1998;351:637-41.
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