Debunking the Vaccine Myths


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Measles, Rubella, HPV, Tuberculosis. What do these names have in common? Simple. These are all diseases which are easily preventable via vaccination, normally done during childhood as recommended by the WHO and Centres for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC). These diseases have little or no occurrences in the past decade, however, recently, there has been an alarming number of these cases being reported, not just in Malaysia, but worldwide. Why so? This phenomena can be attributed to anti-vaccination groups. And the fact that there are several vaccine myths making the rounds that we need to debunk!

Vaccines, in simple terms, are injections which contain either killed or weakened forms of virus or bacteria. Once injected, the human’s white blood cells start producing specific antibodies to the virus or bacteria in the vaccine, and kills them. After that, the white blood cells retain a lifetime memory of the offending microorganism which just invaded the body, and in future attacks of that particular microorganism, white blood cells in the body are able to martial an immediate defence to fend off an infection.

 

 


Why are some people in the world Anti-Vaccine? What are the Vaccine myths?


Now, children are the groups who are normally targeted for vaccination as they are the ones more susceptible to infections. Moreover, these vaccinations help prevent fatal diseases during adulthood. Anti-vaccination groups throughout the world are denying the child’s right to be protected based on a few reasons, each more ridiculous than the last! Below are the few most common excuses given by parents:

  • Vaccination causes Autism in children

  • Muslim parents fear and doubt the halal-ness of vaccines.

  • Parents do not want their children’s skin to be tarnished with a BCG scar.

  • We don’t need to vaccinate as infection rates are very low


Now let us debunk each of these vaccine myths one by one.

First off, the claim that vaccination causes autism in children, has been debunked and the author, Dr Andrew Wakefield, discredited and stripped off of his medical license. In 1998, he published a research paper claiming to have found a link between Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine, and the appearance of autism and bowel disease. This was published by a relatively well known journal, The Lancet.



The paper immediately caused a furore worldwide, with misled parents denying to have the vaccinations. This claim however, was rejected by the medical community worldwide, citing falsification of research results as one of the main reasons, besides others. But, the damage has been done. Public fear of vaccine is rampant, and here we are 20 years later, still trying to fix the damage wrought.

Halal or Non-halal?


Vaccines are primarily made up off a main microorganism which has been killed or weakened, and a few adjuvants to help stabilise the concoction. In Malaysia, the main concern of Muslim parents is that vaccines could have traces of pork gelatin, which is added to some form of vaccines as an adjuvant. However, there is no cause for worry as the vaccines used in Malaysia do not contain any traces of pig DNA, as confirmed by MIMS . In fact, even if vaccines do contain pork gelatin, multiple international fatwa organisations have approved usage of said vaccines as the amount of pig DNA is negligible, and besides, vaccines are used not for harm, but ultimately to save lives.

BCG, or known fully as Bacille-Calmette Guerin, is a form of vaccine used as a prevention against Tuberculosis. This is a potentially fatal disease, which if contracted, would need daily treatments at the hospital setting for a minimum of 9 months. In Malaysia, this vaccination is typically given at birth, and later a booster shot at 7 years. The scarring typically occurs during the booster shot as this is proof of a previous immunisation. Now, to the parents who are worried about cosmetic issues, consider this; a small scar but with protection against a potentially fatal disease, or the risk of losing your child to a preventable disease. The answer is a no-brainer.

What is Herd Immunity?


Many parents also have this thinking where a low rate of infection means their child would be safe. My answer? Herd immunity! This is a term used where in the setting of a community, where most of the community is immune towards a certain disease, those who are not vaccinated due to unavoidable circumstances (eg: Low immunity, leukemia patients) are protected as there is no spread of the causative organism.



However, if the amount of immunised is reduced, susceptibility of the non-immunised increases exponentially. With the recent increase in parents refusing vaccination for their children, wouldn’t it be safer to immunise your child without having to worry about them getting sick?

For the sake of our children, do vaccinate them. Remember, prevention is better than cure.

 

References

Medline

NHS

MIMS


Melvin Lee

by Melvin Lee

A fresh medical graduate balancing life between nerding and being a gym rat. He is passionate about life itself, and believes in living to his fullest in everything he does. His proudest flaw? Coffee addiction. View all articles by Melvin Lee.




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