Vaccination is unique among de facto mandatory requirements in the modern era, requiring individuals to accept the injection of a medicine or medicinal agent into their bodies, and it has provoked a spirited opposition.
Vaccination is the administration of antigenic material (a vaccine) to stimulate an individual's immune system to develop adaptive immunity to a pathogen. Vaccines can prevent or ameliorate morbidity from infection.
The effectiveness of vaccination has been widely studied and verified. Despite the proper study done, there are still parties that spread misleading information on vaccination. Is Vaccination really harmful? Why are people spreading rumours?
Basic principles of vaccines - there are two major types.
Firstly, an inactivated vaccine; the virus or bacteria are grown in the lab but killed or deactivated. The virus or bacteria is dead but components of it remain and this stimulates the body to produce antibodies.
Secondly, live attenuated vaccines; these are live virus or bacteria but with low virulence.
They will replicate in the body but at a very slow rate, therefore allowing the body to continuously produce antibodies.
Yes, some older vaccines had more severe side effects than current ones do. I'll look at two examples, polio and pertussis, which is commonly known as whooping cough.
Before 2000, pediatricians in the US routinely gave kids a polio vaccine that contained live, attenuated polio virus. Now, American kids get a vaccine with an "inactivated," or killed, virus. Very rarely, the live virus in the older vaccine could actually revert to its natural state and cause paralysis, a tragic consequence.
Some people in the world still deal with this risk. Live, attenuated polio vaccines are used in some regions where polio is endemic because those who get the live, attenuated vaccine are able to pass on their immunity to others around them, which helps spread immunity more quickly.
People are also able to take the live, attenuated vaccine by mouth, instead of in a shot, so it's quicker and easier to get to people in regions where there are few doctors and nurses.
Different countries must judge the risks and benefits of the oral polio vaccine differently; even the US had once judged the live, attenuated vaccine worth the risk, when there was nothing better available. No one has gotten polio from the newer polio vaccine.
Before the 1990s, kids in the US had a pertussis vaccine with severe potential side effects ranging from fever to fainting fits. Some parents sued vaccine manufacturers, claiming that the shot caused brain damage.
Scientists have since determined that the parents' claim is unproven. US doctors now use a new pertussis vaccine with milder side effects.
These stories can be very disturbing to us. Of course, it's up to everyone to decide individually whether the risks of a medicine outweigh its benefits. Consider the numbers around vaccines, though.
Often, something like 1 in 1,000 kids experience moderate side effects such as prolonged crying. For more severe side effects, such as seizures or that rotavirus-caused bowel blockage, the odds go down to one in tens of thousands.
I think it's time for us to educate our community. There is no point of us fighting or going against any anti vaccination movements in this country.
I strongly feel that people have the rights to believe what they think is right and it's our duty to guide and sell the idea to them in order to make them believe in us.
One will not accept that vaccination is helpful if he or she does not have the belief. We can throw and show a list of studies, research and statistics, but if we fail to understand our community's behaviour , trust me, all the effort of promotions, talks, and other intervention will fail.
We should not practice a trend driven intervention but we should, be more specific, I call it tradition drive intervention, know the needs of our clients before advocating any interventions.
I always emphasise on community diagnosis. I do understand how parents feel when they ask us the question "Are these vaccines really safe doc?"
There is no doubt that stats by CDC and WHO have proven that vaccines have tremendously brought down the rate of infectious disease in this country. But it is still our duty to strengthen the existing vaccines we have. We have to build the trust of our clients, only then will they feel and have the belief that our vaccines are safe.
For instance, we all know that vaccines depend a lot on cold chain. It is important not to break the cold chain in order to preserve the effectiveness of our vaccines.
We do face power cuts in rural areas of Sabah and Sarawak and this is one of the main issues that parents are worried about.
So it is best that we rectify these problems before we advocate and put the blame on parents for not listening to us or not believing in us.
To our dear parents, no doctors, no scientists and no researchers in this world have the intention to harm your kids. It is, with the best scientist, that reliable and valid studies are done on vaccination.
History and figures have factually proven that vaccination has been an elite and the best way to prevent infectious disease.
If you have doubts, please do consult us and give us the chance to explain the very core aspect of your doubt in order to have a positive attitude towards vaccination. When a person possesses the proper beliefs, only then will they agree that the product (vaccines) is useful and beneficial to one's health - and that is our aim in Malaysia.
In conclusion, the insistent questioners of mainstream practice will not go away and will not be silenced. They will trouble majorities. The wise goal is to promote understanding between healthcare personnel and our clients that can at least see to it that the troubling is creative and not merely disruptive.
DR DHESI BR (MD,MPH)
Epidemiology. Humanitarian Relief. Emergency Response. Public Health Threats.