The danger of too many people refusing vaccines


Some vaccines are only completed when a child is older, leaving them vulnerable to getting the infectious disease in the meantime. — Positive Parenting

Last fortnight, we talked about anti-vaxxers and why they oppose getting vaccines. So many anti-vaxxers do not want to get vaccines for either themselves or their families. But it only hurts them and their families, right? It does not hurt the world.

Wrong. It hurts the community and the world in the long run, or even in the short term.

There are two main types of anti-vaxxers.

One is the type who just refuses to inoculate themselves and their loved ones.

The other – even more dangerous – is the type who not only refuses to inoculate themselves and their loved ones, but also go around telling all their friends and acquaintances on social media not to inoculate themselves, too.

They want to make sure everyone believes in their misconceptions too, and will shout out their beliefs to the world.

They are the most dangerous type, although the first type are dangerous, too.

What is the danger?

When there are large numbers of people refusing to vaccinate themselves against a certain disease, it leads to the reemergence of that disease in that community or area.

Take, for example, measles.

Back when I was a kid, I had measles. Every single one of my classmates had measles.

It was a thing you went through in childhood.

But when the measles vaccine was introduced as part of the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccination for children, measles all but disappeared in the parts of the world that were vaccinated.

And before you dismiss measles as a minor disease that mostly gives you red bumps on the skin, do not forget that it has many complications, including encephalitis (infection of the brain), which can lead to death in children.

By 2002, measles was declared eradicated in the United States due to widespread vaccination.

But this infectious disease soon reemerged, and by 2014, there were over 600 reported new cases.

This was because of anti-vaxxers who refused to vaccinate their children, resulting in some of them catching the measles virus.

Not only has this happened to measles, but whooping cough (pertussis) has also seen a dramatic increase in cases due to anti-vaxxers.

Right. But if my child is vaccinated and he goes to school with a child who has not been vaccinated, my child should be safe, right?

Yes, for the most part. It depends on the vaccine.

Some vaccines have a very high efficacy rate, such as over 90%.

This means that the vaccine will protect nine out of every 10 vaccinated children.

Let us say that your vaccinated child is the one out of 10 who did not develop antibodies to the virus.

If he goes to school with an unvaccinated child who has fallen ill, then your vaccinated child will get sick too.

Vaccines are supposed to confer herd immunity when enough people are vaccinated.

So, if you do not vaccinate your child, others who might otherwise be safe will get infected too.

And the ones who are the most vulnerable and will get sick first are:

> Infants too young to get vaccinated

You may say, “Oh, my child will not come across an infant.”

But that is not true.

You go to a hospital and there are infants in the clinic. You go to a mall and there are mothers with infants.

There are also some children who are too young to be vaccinated against a certain disease. You expose them too.

Children can only get certain vaccines at certain points in their lives.

The MMR vaccine, for example, is only given when they are one year old, and the second dose is given at age four.

Will you be responsible for a three-year-old child dying of measles just because you refuse to get vaccinated?

> People with weak immune systems

These include those with cancer who are on chemotherapy.

Yes, they may have been vaccinated before, but they are too weak now to mount an effective immune response.

In 2018, there was a college student in Pittsburgh, US, who had measles.

He exposed more than 100 cancer patients to measles. Any of them could have died.

> Healthcare workers

They are always at the greatest risk, even if they have been vaccinated before as they are constantly exposed to all sorts of dangerous microorganisms.

So, because of anti-vaxxers’ actions, large numbers of people are exposed to infectious diseases they might otherwise have not gotten.

OK, so I got the flu vaccine, but I still got the flu! That is why I don’t fully believe in vaccines!

The flu vaccine is only 40% to 60% effective.

Sometimes, you may have already been infected by the flu virus before you got your vaccine.

It takes two weeks after receiving the flu shot for you to develop immunity.

The flu vaccine also cannot shield you against all types of flu viruses as the virus mutates very quickly.

But it still works in protecting many vaccinated people from getting the flu, or getting a severe version of it.

Two doses of the MMR vaccine, however, is 97% effective against measles, 88% effective against mumps, and 97% effective against rubella.

So you cannot use the flu vaccine to say that all vaccines do not work!

Please get better informed about the type of vaccine you are taking.

Dr YLM graduated as a medical doctor, and has been writing for many years on various subjects such as medicine, health, computers and entertainment. For further information, email starhealth@thestar.com.my. The information contained in this column is for general educational purposes only. Neither The Star nor the author gives any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to such information. The Star and the author disclaim all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.

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Vaccine , vaccination , anti-vaxxers

   

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