We recently published an article on the anti-vaxx billboards that are going up all over the US. The billboards show Nicholas Catone, a young boy that passed away late last year at just 20 months old. Although doctors officially ruled that Nicholas had died from sudden death syndrome (SIDS), his family believed otherwise, which lead to a campaign with Learn The Risk. “As a nurse, I was never taught vaccines can kill until my son was a victim,” reads mom Marjorie’s words, which as we know, is terribly problematic.
- Read the full story here: Anti-vaxx billboards are going up all over the US – here’s why it’s problematic
We vaccinate, quite simply, because vaccinations saves lives. It's not only about protecting the health and life your own child, but also that of so many others, especially the most vulnerable in society such as babies who are still too young to be vaccinated. With herd immunity, if enough children in a community are immunised against a disease, then that infection will no longer be able to travel through that community. Think of the millions of lives we're saving.
The South African Vaccination and Immunisation Centre (SAIVC) reports that cases of diphtheria are now very rare, and states that according to The World Health Organization (WHO), “South Africa, Namibia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe have potentially eliminated maternal and neonatal tetanus.” Both are vicious and deadly diseases.
So if doctors fully support and encourage vaccinations, and the results of immunisation are clear to see, wouldn’t everyone be pro-vaxx?
- Also read: Baby vaccinations in SA: what and why
We thought as much, but our readers seem to be more divided than ever. Here’s what they had to say:
We all have our opinions and we're entitled to them too
"We were never vaccinated and the kids are alright"
Mahlako says vaccinations only made her son sick. "I stopped taking him to be vaccinated after reading up on vaccines, with each year he got less sick. He is now 6 years this year, he had no flu whatsoever, he has not gotten sick from anything. So should I believe that vaccines are good healthy and protect our kids? I don't think so.
"We were never vaccinated and the kids are alright: My father was anti-vaccines so naturally we weren’t vaccinated," she continues. "My siblings and I are the healthiest people we know. Strong, fit and never sick. I mean, not even a headache. I haven’t been to a doctor since I was 12 for an illness (I have been for insurance tests only). I had all the childhood sicknesses (measles, etc) before I turned 12. Since then my siblings and I have never been sick, ever. The oldest is 51. I’m not anti but makes one wonder if it’s necessary."
George explains that he, along with his brothers and sisters, also weren't vaccinated, and they're "the healthiest people". "Strong, fit and never sick. I mean, not even a headache. I haven’t been to a doctor since I was 12 for an illness."
"I had all the childhood sicknesses (measles, etc) before I turned 12. Since then my siblings and I have never been sick, ever. The oldest is 51. I’m not anti but makes one wonder if it’s necessary. My brother’s kids are NOT vaccinated and are super healthy, like us. My sister’s kids are vaccinated and they have poor health. It’s not proof of anything but it’s a consideration, no doubt."
Cindy Msomi agrees, saying herbal is the way to go. "According to my father, growing up in the 50's they were NEVER vaccinated! But they survived on a plant-based diet and never ever got sick. Today, he's 67 years fit and strong. By the way, my father grew up in a village. At that time people in villages planted their own food – everything was 100% organic."
Read more: The homeopathic view of vaccinations
These were lucky families. And one could argue that they were protected by herd immunity themselves. Others weren't so lucky.
In the World Health Organization’s 10 facts of immunization they go into the numbers to show what a massive change the introduction of vaccinations has made.
During 2016 an estimated 116.5 million (about 86%) of children under the age of one years old worldwide received three doses of diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP3) – the same vaccination given to Nicholas. These children were protected against infectious diseases that could have made them really sick, it could have even been fatal. And yet, 19.3 million children under the age of one did not receive the DTP3 vaccine, and South Africa features as one of the ten countries from which around 60% of these children live.
And yet, the successes, the numbers, do not lie.
In 2016, fewer children were paralysed by polio than any other year prior, further, strains of wild polio seem to have been eliminated completely. India and the entire WHO South-East Asia Region have been declared polio-free and outbreaks in the Middle East and Horn of Africa have been stopped.
Another highly contagious virus that hasn’t been stopped quite yet in Africa, but is on its way, is measles. WHO reports, globally, measles deaths have decreased by 84% from an estimated 550 000 deaths in 2000 to 89 780 in 2016.
The numbers do not lie.
There's quite a bit of banter around this way of thinking. Here are some comments pro-vaccine.
We've prevented millions of deaths and disease with the introduction of vaccinations
"Our children's time and environment is not the same as your parents'"
Juan-mare Nel explained, "Our children's time and environment is not the same as your parents' or brothers' or sisters'. It's different, why compare by saying in my parents' time they did not have vaccinations and were healthy? It's not the same as now. Now there are a lot of bad bacteria and sickness. The environment[al] changes don't compare."
Choosing not to vaccinate can harm other children too
But believing firmly in heard immunity, one user felt that if a child isn't vaccinated, they shouldn't be allowed in a classroom with others. Because if fewer children are vaccinated, the potential risk of disease in a particular community increases:
And while some believed it would be unfair to punish innocent children, who have a constitutional right to an education, others commented passionately, "Yeah, because the right to give others polio is totally up there."
Vaccinations do not cause harm
Touching on incidences such as the passing of Nicholas Catone, readers reiterated that we cannot hold vaccinations responsible for such tragedies.
Ilhaam says her daughter is a vaccinated kid, and she's always in great health. So we cannot make the assumption that vaccinations will harm our kids.
Paula Gruben highlights an analogy in the article we wrote:
Should I or shouldn't I vaccinate? "It's not a debate"
Lenore Germeshuys says it as it is though: "It's not a debate."
"It's not a debate. The fact that you call it that legitimizes the anti-vaxx movement," explains Lenore.
"There's risk in everything. Everything. Everything you do can result in injuries or death – driving, cooking, swimming, playing with your dog. But not vaccinating because of wild rumours and "injuries" that have been scientifically proven as fake (even in a study funded by anti-vaxxers!), you're as bad as a drunk driver."
"You're risking the lives of others. You're being selfish, self centered, and willfully ignorant. This is not a debate. Science has proven it's efficacy and efficiency time and time again."
Where do you stand on the vaccination debate? Email your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org. Do let us know if you'd like to remain anonymous.
- What is the homeopathic view on vaccinations?
- The benefits of vaccinations in children
- 4 important things to consider if you're still unsure about where you stand in the vaccination debate
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