IN ANY EMOTIVE debate, it’s important to look at the evidence dispassionately and try to evaluate it to the best of our abilities. Even if we’re not scientists ourselves, we can try to identify trustworthy sources of information. All the world’s knowledge is now available on the internet. But so is a lot of fake news. The more you can find consensus from reliable sources, the closer you are likely to get to the truth.
So let’s calmly look at some of the reasons parents become vaccine-hesitant.
THE BLINDNESS OF PRIVILEGE
If you grew up 50 or 100 years ago, one of your siblings would most likely have died from smallpox or diphtheria, been maimed by polio, or spent months away from home in a TB hospital. Because we have saved countless children’s lives via immunisations (South Africa has just been declared polio-free!), we have forgotten what it’s like to live with or die from these diseases.
Some parents say: “My children have robust immune systems and eat well, nobody has HIV or TB, and we have clean drinking water, hygienic living conditions and good medical care. So I really don’t need to vaccinate my children against measles – they will easily survive the disease.”
There are two problems with this argument. The first is that this is not necessarily true: even children from well-off families can and do die from chickenpox, measles, influenza, and other diseases. Not many, true, but this is no comfort if it happens to be your child.
Secondly, your children are a risk to other people who can’t be vaccinated because they have some form of immunodeficiency or other genetic disorders or diseases or are too young to be vaccinated. This is because herd immunity only works when enough people are vaccinated to protect a very few who can’t be.
HERD IMMUNITY – WHAT’S THAT?
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