Issues Blog Issues Blog

To vaccinate or not to vaccinate

Posted by: Brigitte Rozario, 1-Apr-2011

Siew (not her real name), mother of three, writes:

My children are not vaccinated and I don't ever plan to vaccinate them. Well, one child did get three shots because I was scared after hearing the paediatrician's explanation. But then I went on to do my own research. I spent hours and hours in front of the computer trying to find out why natural health practitioners do not advocate vaccines.

What I went on to read gave me goosebumps and I regret that I never ever did my own thorough research before subjecting my newborn to vaccines. I always thought doctors knew best until I decided not to be ignorant anymore.

1. Aren't vaccines full of toxic ingredients?
I have read that the ingredients in vaccines are mostly carcinogenic. Ask any chemist or check with the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) of the United States.

2. Vaccines are not 100% effective.
As you are aware, kids still contract chicken pox, measles, whooping cough, etc although they are fully immunised. I have many friends' kids with chicken pox despite having had the chicken pox jab. So, what is the point of vaccination? Will my child have less blisters if she has the vaccination?

Not true! My daughter had chicken pox with less blisters compared to my friend's son who had the vaccine just a couple of months prior to the outbreak. He had it all over. It was terrible.

Vaccines give parents a sense of false security.

3. Have they been tested for long-term side effects?
I believe the HPV vaccine, for example, was launched after less than 10 years of testing.

Vaccines are a multibillion dollar industry. It's all about the money, not our health. Over 300 new vaccines are in the pipeline. That's a scary fact.

My children have never needed to visit doctors for illnesses except one that had an insect bite. They have had no life-threatening disease or condition; no eczema or allergy, like every other child in town.

I have allergy in my medical background so it should mean at least one of my girls should be allergic to something but that is not the case.

Shareeza Faruqui, mother of two boys aged one and 12 years old:

As a mother, the problem that I faced when weighing the pros and cons of vaccination is the lack of resources. Every doctor that I have spoken to advises to vaccinate. I think what makes us vaccinate our children is fear. What motivates us to vaccinate is we trust doctors to advise us accordingly and we feel that we are protecting our children the best we can. I'm not aware of any non-medical or non-pharmaceutical organisation that is able to give unbiased vaccination advice to parents. The Internet is unreliable as the information is contradictory at best. I also feel that pharmaceutical companies are profit-making organisations, and the all mighty dollar is their bottom line. If you read a brochure on a vaccination, the pharmaceutical company makes it sound as if you are dooming your child if you don't vaccinate.

Personally, I have just stuck to the routine immunisation schedule as advised by the hospital. I have chosen not to give my child the additional vaccinations which include the pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines. The reason being, I would rather give my child the opportunity to build his immune system instead of unduly taxing it by introducing all this medication at such a young age.



Paediatrician Dr Yong Junina:

The Health Ministry decides which vaccinations Malaysians should get based on the prevalence of the disease in our country. For example, the triple antigen immunisation was added to the list many years ago because at that time we had cases of diphtheria which we no longer see now. We are still wary of diphtheria now because there are still cases in other countries. We still have cases of whooping cough in Malaysia but we have reduced the number significantly by immunising the young.

We do not see tetanus nowadays because everyone is vaccinated and mothers are vaccinated during pregnancy to prevent transmission.

We are moving towards eradicating polio. I think so far we've done a very good job. We have either achieved the polio-free status or we're close to achieving it because we've not had any polio cases in Malaysia.

Recently, we added another vaccination - the Haemophilus B vaccine which is now given together with the triple antigen because that was found to be the commonest cause of bacterial meningitis in children. When children get meningitis from this bacteria they run a high risk of getting brain damage and hearing loss. So, vaccinating them is beneficial and cost effective as well for them in the long term.

As for the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccination, it is important for children to get this. We are heading towards eliminating measles. Although benign in most cases, measles can lead to complications and death. Mumps can cause sterility and inflammation of the pancreas. If you get rubella and pass it on to a pregnant mother, her baby can be born with various congenital abnormalities like cataract, heart problems and mental retardation.

Those are the reasons why children are vaccinated.

The vaccinations we give in Malaysia are similar or the same as the ones proposed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) although now there are one or two new ones that other countries have taken up. The pneumococcal vaccine, for example, is still not in the national immunisation protocol but it is offered at private centres.

Although it is compulsory for children to get all the vaccinations on the national immunisation protocol, they are not prevented from attending school if they have not gotten their immunisation jabs.

Supposing in a school of a thousand children, 90% of them have been vaccinated. Then a herd immunity occurs. These children who are protected are less likely to be carrying the bacteria or the virus. So, the child who is not immunised is actually protected by his or her peers.

But if more and more parents opt not to vaccinate, then this herd immunity is lost.

Plus, if the child is in a country where the disease is still rife, then the child is at risk of contracting the disease.

If you are not immune to whooping cough, then you can get it and you can pass it on to a baby under the age of two months who has not been vaccinated and is at risk of contracting whooping cough.

So, by not immunising your child, you are not just putting your child and his life at risk, you are also putting the lives of others within your community at risk.

Being vaccinated offers you 85% immunity but nothing is 100%. In the case of measles and chicken pox, even if you do get it after being immunised you would tend to get a milder course of the disease compared to if you were not vaccinated.

The vaccines are safe; they are no longer first-generation vaccines. They have undergone rigorous testing and trials and have been around for many, many years and have been improved upon. They don't contain mercury now. The new vaccines are mercury-free. Most vaccines are killed viruses like Hepatitis B and the injectable polio vaccine.

All the studies so far plus what we've seen around us show that there's very little side effects and the common ones are pain and fever.

As for the fears of children getting autism due to vaccinations, there is no data to support this claim. The fear arose after one researcher in Britain linked autism to vaccinations. However, he has since withdrawn that paper, admitting that the data was not correct.

The problem is that autism tends to manifest itself in the first two years of life and normally you see the child exhibiting his or her personality traits after the first year. The timing of this coincides with when the MMR vaccine is given.

By the time the child reaches two or three years old, the only thing the mother will remember is that the child had the MMR vaccine at one year old and after that he was diagnosed with autism. Sometimes if you look back you will realise the child already had problems prior to this but you don't diagnose autism under the age of two years.

While you don't want to give so many jabs at one go, you can never be too careful. It's like putting locks on your gate. Is 10 locks too many?

Vaccinations are basically to safeguard your child against potentially life-threatening or fatal diseases. As long as you follow the schedule and the age limitations for each vaccination, you will be fine. There is no such thing as over-vaccinating a child.

The optional vaccines like the pneumococcal vaccine are only optional in this country because the Government is not providing it but it is actually recommended by WHO. Pneumococcal meningitis is the second commonest bacterial meningitis in Malaysia.

I've seen children with pneumococcal disease and I've heard of deaths from meningitis so why take the risk even if the vaccine is 'expensive' at almost RM300 a dose. If something happens to your child you will kick yourself for not wanting to spend that money to save him or her.

When it comes to certain things like the common cold you can let the child build his or her immunity naturally. However, for diseases that carry dire consequences, you really don't want to take the risk. You want the child to never get the infection so that he remains normal and healthy.

Diseases like meningitis and whooping cough are still out there and we still see deaths from chicken pox, even. We may not see them as much these days because our communities are well vaccinated now., but they are still out there.

There are no alternatives to vaccinations.

If you want unbiased reports and you are wary of what doctors and pharmaceutical companies tell you, you can go to the WHO website (www.who.int/en/) to look at the data on vaccines.

Comments
  • I am a mother of 3 children. They are now grown up adults. With very little health problems. Personally, I have just stuck to the routine immunisation schedule as advised by the hospital.

    Diseases like meningitis and whooping cough are still out there and we still see deaths from chicken pox, even. We may not see them as much these days because our communities are well vaccinated now., but they are still out there.

    There are no alternatives to vaccinations.
    Get protected Live healthy Be Happy Long Life

  • Thanks to Dr Yong Junina and Parenthots for tackling this issue. It's answered many questions that I have regarding vaccinations. Hopefully the Health Ministry can have this information available for parents at hospitals & clinics, much like how Bank Negara has booklets at every bank on different financial issue.

  • i'm a mother of 3. 1 boy and 2 girls. Nathanael (6yr), Laura (3 yr) and Amanda (6mth). i gave pneumoccocal vaccination to my son on 28 Dec, just a few days before his 6th birthday. After 13 days, he had a series of seizures, then he was admitted to hospital. He became less receptive, cannot eat, only milk fed through the tube and cannot walk, talk, or think properly. Eventually, his intellectual ability digressed to that of 1 mth old baby, he also has no more control of his nervous system and passed away on the 15 Feb 2011.

    My son was healthy, full of life and a very loving kid. We were not told of the side effects of the vaccination and i regretted not doing any research prior to vaccination. i was very trusting of what my doctor recommended.

    i will never give the vaccination to my girls. i reside in Singapore and i heard that there is a case about vaccination that was reported on Sun Paper recently. if u have more information, could u pls e-mail me at kapsister@yahoo.com.sg? thanks.

    Doris