The horrific trend of the anti-vaccine movement in Turkey

Vaccination 2018____

(UN News, 2017)

This article was exclusively written for the Sting by Ms. Erva Nur Çınar, a 5th year medical student and human rights activist, currently studying at Istanbul University Cerrahpasa Medical Faculty. She is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


Vaccines are one of the most important measures of preventative medicine toprotect the population from diseases and infections. They have contributed todecreasing rates of common childhood diseases and, in some cases, have evenwiped out some diseases that were common in years past, such as smallpox,rinderpest, and have nearly eradicated malaria and polio.

Fear of vaccines and myths against them are not a new phenomenon. Opposition to vaccines goes as far back as the 18th century when, for example, Reverend Edmund Massey in England called the vaccines “diabolical operations” in his 1772 sermon, “The Dangerous and Sinful Practice of Inoculation”. While pushback against the measles vaccine due to fears of its connection to autism is the most recent example that comes to mind, there have been other instances of outbreaks of previously “extinct” diseases in modern times.

In Turkey, from 2013, unfortunately, we are observing an increase in the number of anti-vaccine groups, which are causing confusion in people’s minds and affecting people’s health through wrong information. Parents are coming together through a platform called ‘I don’t have to vaccine my child’.

Access to medical information online has dramatically changed the dynamics of the healthcare industry and patient-physician interactions. Medical knowledge that was previously bound to textbooks and journals, or held primarily by medical professionals, is now accessible to the layman, which has shifted the power from doctors as exclusive managers of a patient’s care to the patients themselves.

This has led to the recent establishment of shared decision-making between patients and healthcare physicians. While this is beneficial in some ways, the dissemination of false and misleading information found on the internet can also lead to negative consequences, such as parents not giving consent to having their children vaccinated. When it comes to vaccines, the false information is plentiful and easy to find.

According to the studies an analysis of YouTube videos about immunization found that 32% opposed vaccination and that these had higher ratings and more views than pro-vaccine videos. An analysis of MySpace blogs about HPV immunization found that 43% portrayed the immunization in a negative light; these blogs referenced vaccine-critical organizations and cited inaccurate data.

The number of families that have refused to have their children vaccinated increased to 23,000 last year from 11,000 in 2016 in Turkey. The Ministry of Health and World Health Organization warned that if vaccination is interrupted, up to 14,000 children may lose their lives each year because of preventable diseases. They are also saying parents could have their children vaccinated against 13 types of diseases, including mumps, diphtheria, chin cough, polio, meningitis and German measles, at public health clinics free of charge.

Ensuring high immunization coverage and expanding vaccine access to those who are being missed are crucial parts of universal health coverage. Vaccines prevent a number of diseases, such as rotavirus, measles, rubella, poliomyelitis, whooping cough, hepatitis B and human papillomavirus. They also contribute to realizing national priorities linked to education and economic development, and to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

References:

Hussain, A., Syed, A., Ahmed, M., Hussain, S. (2018). The Anti-vaccination Movement: A Regression in Modern Medicine, Cureus, 10(7): e2919.

http://www.euro.who.int/en/about-us/patron/news/news/2018/4/european-immunization-week-vaccination-is-a-right-and-responsibility-for-all

http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkeys-health-ministry-takes-action-amid-anti-vaccination-trend-among-parents-135645

http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/who-warns-against-increasing-anti-vaccination-trend-in-turkey-132684

About the author

Erva Nur Çınar is 5th year medical student and human rights activist. Sheis currently studying at Istanbul University Cerrahpasa Medical Faculty. She is workingwith SDSN Youth as an SDG Coordinator and she is also working with UN-MajorGroup for Children and Youth (UNMGCY). She worked with International Federationof Medical Sudents’ Associations (IFMSA), Doctors Wihout Borders (MSF),Association for Solidarity with Asylum Seekers and Migrants (ASAM). She wantsto be a pediatrician in the future and she is defining herself as childrenrights activist. She is playing violine and making yoga, she likes travellingand reading.

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