Anti-vaccers: does the empty can rattle the most?

Vaccination 2018 babies

(Unsplash, 2018)

This article was exclusively written for the The European Sting by Ms. Róża Ludwikowska, a 5th year medical student of Jagellonian University in Kraków, Poland. 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.


Fear of a manipulative, corrupted government is a not a new phenomenon. However, possibly for the first time in a history, we can observe the European society getting paranoid about their own public healthcare system to such an extent. The “ anti-vaccers” are not the only one, but probably the loudest group at the moment. It is high time to ask ourselves where this situation may lead us and whether we are able to influence it’s course in any way.

I have spent the majority of my life in Poland and will focus on that country to illustrate the problem. While several important vaccines are mandatory and provided free of charge for children here (e.g. hepatitis B, tuberculosis, polio, tetanus), Polish healthcare system is widely believed to be severely under-financed and failing to diagnose, treat and educate the country`s population properly.

All the medical personnel is working overtime for a minimum to an average wage to compensate for the system`s shortcomings. Patients often get as little as 5 minutes to speak with their family practitioners and wait months for a consultation with a specialist.

When we shift our attention to local ativaccination movement we can notice it to be active, dynamic and attract widespread media interest, especially through its controversial and well-recognised leaders. One of them holds a tiltle of professor in neurobiology. You would probably consider this person at the first glimpse to be credible.

Would you defend that opinion though listening to her speaking of a human DNA being injected with vacciness to create brainless mutants? Many would not, yet still some believe her.  Another and currently the most successful  – Jerzy Zięba – is an engineer, captivating writer and a creator of his own brand of dietary supplements that brought an estimated 5 mln euro of income in a time span of just 2 years.

Presumably, about 1% of Polish population is actively involved in spreading erroneous information about vaccines. As little as this might seem, there is dramatically growing number of under-informed people under their influence.

Official statistics are alarming: in the last year the number of children whose parents refused at least one mandatory vaccination was as high as 7%. In the year 2018 this number is expected to reach 10 % and continue growing.

A worrying addition is a massive immigration from Ukraine and other countries outside the EU, where vaccination rate is low and some diseases considered rare in Poland till now – like tuberculosis – are still widespread. While preparing to deal with those infections, lets not forget about another problem – growing anibiotic resistance.

And last but not least, lets keep in mind that the situation described above is not limited to Poland, but present to a various extent in all of European countries.

Are we about to face a crisis then? I would say yes. How deep the crisis will be is the big question. What can be done about it is to stay alert and never stop spreading credible information to all of hesitant people around us.

References

Rzecznik Praw Dziecka: nieszczepienie dzieci narusza ich prawa, „TVN24.pl” [access 2018-11-24]

Małgorzata Solecka: Czterech jeźdźców proepidemicznej apokalipsy. mp.pl, 9 February 2016. [access 2018-11-24]

Łukasz Sakowski: Biologiczna Bzdura roku 2017 totylkoteoria.pl [access 2018-11-24]

Szymon Krawiec: Ukryte Terapie, Ukryte Zyski, wprost.pl [access 2018-11-24]

Author`s own clinical experience and observations

About the author

Róża Ludwikowska is 5th year medical student of Jagellonian University in Kraków, Poland. Since 5 years actively involved with IFMSA-Poland  – a part of International Federation of Medical Students Assciations. Her main area of interest includes psychiatry and emergency medicine. While participating in a professional exchange project in Poland she  had an opportunity to meet young medical adepts from all over the world and herself worked in hospitals of Armenia and Tunisia. In her free time a traveller, awarded photographer and commited observer of alternative medicine trend in her country.

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