Local doctor explains the rise of the anti-vaxx movement

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South Africa has one of the most strict healthcare regulations in the world in terms of importing medicinal products.
South Africa has one of the most strict healthcare regulations in the world in terms of importing medicinal products.

Vaccination is currently, and somewhat surprisingly for many, a contentious topic.

As a mother myself, I shuddered at the sight of my babies being injected with unknown substances, and of course I wondered if this was the right thing to do.

But I also trusted the science and the evidence that proved that protecting them (and myself) from a number of horrible contagious diseases with a simple vaccination was certainly the better option.  

Since then, I've come to understand that not everyone feels the same way, and that parents who lovingly buckle their children into car seats, carefully read the label on every food item and even wipe down the playground slide with a wet wipe, will draw the line at vaccinating their precious kids.  

Why is this?

I interviewed Dr Nasiha Soofie, Country Medical Head for the Vaccines Unit and Exports Market at Sanofi in an attempt to understand why there has been an increase in the number of people who believe vaccinations are bad for children; why anti-vaxxers are misinformed; and why it's a dangerous road to go down. 

I also asked her what exactly these parents, who certainly appear to love and protect their children in other ways, think vaccinations will do to their young ones.

"There is a lot of fake news, media and misinformation on the harms associated with vaccination that are often exaggerated or exploited by the anti-vaccination campaign," Dr Soofie says.

Unchecked social media 

As an example, she describes the decades-old myth that vaccination causes autism, a claim which has been continuously disproven using reliable, tested scientific methods across the globe.

Dr Soofie explains that "a proliferation in various communication channels such as social media platforms that are not regulated for accuracy of the information disseminated", has led to the rise in the number of local parents who are against vaccinating their children. 

Unchecked social media has resulted in a "promulgation of consumers who are misinformed and do not have the necessary skills to filter the information to which they are exposed".

If individuals continue to abstain from vaccination, she warns, they will be at an increased risk of acquiring some very debilitating and fatal infections. 

But, it's safe, right?

Vaccination is one of the most powerful tools invented since the advent of clean, running water in terms of curbing disease and death, Dr Soofie assures me.

It has been repeatedly proven through tried and tested scientific means that whenever a vaccine is introduced into a community there is an almost instant decline in disease and death, she says.

She also reassuringly explains that South Africa has one of the most strict healthcare regulations in the world in terms of importing medicinal products into the country.

"Vaccines are tested over decades," she adds, "spanning thousands of participants worldwide for tolerability and suitability for human consumption".

Not convinced? Let us know where you stand on vaccination.

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