Vaccinations and the movement of anti-vaccers

vaccine 2019 ifmsa

(Unsplash, 2018)

This article was exclusively written for the Sting by Ms. Hamaiyal Sana, a third year student of medicine at Bolan University of Medical and Health Sciences in Pakistan. 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 neither IFMSA’s nor The European Sting’s view on the topic.


When we talk vaccines, the first thing that comes to mind should be the sense of security it affords our health. It would not be an overstatement to suggest that introduction of vaccines in the world changed the face of public health forever.

Where we saw countless death before, we have seen life; where we saw fleeting lifetimes before, we have seen longevity. Yet, alongside this miracle always existed a community of individuals who were opposed to it, claiming it to be a marketing strategy for pharmaceutical companies, a way of introducing mental retardation among children or causing infertility, going as far as calling it an unreligious practice.

This strategic yet baseless propaganda was called the “anti-vaccer movement” and it has been an ever-present element since the introduction of vaccines in late 18th century in Europe. One would ask the reason behind these agendas and movements against vaccine; why is it that humans would not support the one great that has made their species out exist any others before them. Surely we cannot be that naive? To delve into this would obviously be a very lengthy debate.

But it has been seen as a trend with vaccines that when people go far too long without witnessing or experiencing the gruesome consequences that culminate for vaccine preventable diseases (VPD), they lose touch with reality and assume themselves under a false security.

It is very self explanatory that diseases like small pox and polio have become a fragment of our textbook stories. While polio is still considered an endemic in more than one countries (including Pakistan), its incidence has become very low, awarding the people a false notion that these diseases might not be that serious, or maybe they will not be touched by them. One popular notion is that if their ancestors went without vaccines and still did not contract these diseases then why do they have a need for it?

Ideas like these are what fuel the anti-vaccine movements. European history is proof that these movements have not always been peaceful and most have left some pretty gruesome marks on the society and the future of healthcare as a whole. A very similar violent atmosphere against vaccines can be found in Pakistan, where religious groups like Tehreek Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have driven a rather horrendous movement with a over 100 deaths reported till date, including strategized target killings and even suicide bomb attacks on polio centers.

Movements like these are creating a serious conundrum for the eradication of VPDs. Where there were only eight confirmed cases of polio in Pakistan last year (compared to a total of 14 cases of polio reported from Afghanistan, the only two countries of the world with a status of endemic for polio), there might now be more. Another aspect to what makes these movements a terrifying threat to the future of humankind is that it is not only driven by religious zealots but also by the high class and well-educated population of the society.

Recently we are seeing that these movements are being backed by licensed medical practitioners and leaders of the society as well. A prime example of this is the current outbreak of measles in a developed region like Europe. This raises some very serious questions about our future: has our species come so low to go through devastating consequences for diseases that have already been found a cure for?

What is our role in this? How are we contributing to this cause? It is a very apt saying that the “last mile is the longest”. We have come the closest we have ever been to eradication of these diseases. Now we need to ask ourselves: could we have reached where we stand today if we had let nature decide what it saw fit?

Today we stand behind a wall of individuals, who have immunity against VPDs, but this wall is becoming weaker with each refusal to vaccination and lest we forget it, we will not be walking in a herd immune society if we kept losing ourselves in baseless propagandas.

Reference: http://rstb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/368/1623/20120148.short

About the author

Hamaiyal Sana is a third year student of medicine at Bolan University of Medical and Health Sciences. She is currently holding the position of the assistant to National officer of Public Health (NPO) IFMSA Pakistan. When she is not reading or writing, she can be found participating in any manner of volunteer activities to help those around her. She has a very deep running philanthropic streak that inspired her to pursue a career in medicine in the first place. Her goal is to make the dream of health equity a reality for everybody regardless of class or ethnicity.

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

The power of trust and values in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

COVID-19: Mental balance in pandemic times

This is why coral reefs are so vital for the planet

EU-Singapore trade agreement enters into force

Bigotry makes politicians ‘complicit in the violence that follows’ : UN independent experts

Study: Trade supports over 36 million jobs across the EU

Who can unlock the stalled Brexit negotiations? UK Premier sticks to her proposal

The financial future of Eurozone on the agenda of Friday’s ECOFIN council

Could play be a game-changer for the world’s forests?

What wealth managers can learn from family dynamics

Coronavirus: European Commission calls for action in protecting seasonal workers

5 ways to integrate Syrian refugees into the workforce

How to build a model for human security in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Mergers: Commission opens in-depth investigation into proposed acquisition of DSME by HHIH

The impossible end of the war in Syria

Here’s how drone delivery will change the face of global logistics

European Accessibility Act: Parliament and Council negotiators strike a deal

Trade in digital services is booming. Here’s how we can unleash its full potential

UNICEF delivers medical supplies to Gaza in wake of deadly protests

A European student just sets the question of the day: What kind of education policies are missing in Europe?

Gaza investigators call on Israel to review ‘rules of engagement’ as Gaza protest anniversary looms

False promises to Small and Medium Enterprises

Car emissions: MEPs set end on gap between lab and real driving emission tests

‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ clean-up project launches trial run: UN Environment

UN, African Union make significant joint commitment to global health

Refugee crisis update: EU still lacks solidarity as Hungary and Slovakia refuse to accept EU Court’s decision

EU budget 2021: An annual budget focused on European recovery

Artificial intelligence: Commission takes forward its work on ethics guidelines

How regenerative agroforestry could solve the climate crisis

Talent is worldwide. Opportunity is not. How can we redistribute it?

Aviation Strategy for Europe: Commission signs landmark aviation agreements with China

Business uncertainty rises as US grants only temporary exception to EU for steel and aluminium tariffs

External action: more funds for human rights, development and climate change

These countries have the most nuclear reactors

Sanity in times of COVID-19

Decent working conditions for the young health workforce: what are the challenges and can we find solutions?

Sweden’s forests have doubled in size over the last 100 years

Migration crisis: how big a security threat it is?

US life expectancy is falling – here’s why

EU steps up its strategy for connecting Europe and Asia

Trade marks: Commission decides to refer Romania to the Court of Justice for not transposing the Trade Mark Directive

How interoperability establishes blockchain’s utility and effectiveness for trade finance

Confronting neo-mercantilism: why regulation is critical to global trade

When connectivity is not enough: the key to meaningful digital inclusion

What’s everyone talking about at Davos 2020?

Trump: Hostile to Europe, voids Tillerson’s “ironclad” ally pledge

Multiprofessional action against the indiscriminate use of antibiotics

Security Council hails ‘historic and significant’ joint peace declaration by Ethiopia and Eritrea

The future of energy is being shaped in Asia

Trump beats Clinton but Americans will learn the hard way that the US can’t change with an election

4 things ISPs can do to reduce the impact of cybercrime

Using the quarantine to your advantage

UNICEF backpacks used as a haunting symbol to call for greater protection of children living in conflict

EU Commission – US hasten talks to avoid NGO reactions on free trade agreement

China will be the world’s top tourist destination by 2030

Future-proofing the European banking market – removing the obstacles to exit

‘Our concern now is the southern hemisphere’ – COVID Action Platform convenes leaders on the challenges ahead

Energy Union: Commission calls on Member States to step up ambition in plans to implement Paris agreement

What are we actually working for?

Visiting North Korea, UN relief chief spotlights funding shortfall to meet humanitarian needs

More Stings?

Advertising

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s