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Rejecting vaccines is more dangerous and expensive in the long run as it weakens the immunity of those who get immunized and increases the susceptibility of everyone.
Vaccine-preventable deaths are not just sad, they are needless. They constitute a problem with a time-tested solution- prevention through immunization.
Why then do children still die? Why do they lead sub-par lives as a result of disability or stunting? This is due to poor uptake of immunization. As the government organizes mass immunization with the aim to access everyone, the issue of rejection is largely responsible for children not receiving vaccines.
Even though immunization is free, it is also voluntary hence, some parents make the choice not to present their children. Many of them do so out of concerns for safety. Misconceptions and inadequate information about the nature of vaccines can be blamed for this. Others believe vaccines do not work.
There is a need therefore, to communicate the safety and efficacy of vaccines to ensure universal uptake of immunization and reduce the burden of deaths and disability from diseases including polio, hepatitis, tetanus, measles and mumps. This will ensure proper development of the child and the nation at large.
Vaccines go through a painstaking process of research, production, testing, storage and distribution to ensure they protect against diseases and are safe to use.
Just like any other clinical drug, there are side effects to be taken into consideration. But instead of refusing them outright, they have to be improved upon with new advances in science and technology.
To be fair, there have been isolated cases of side effects like fever and other reactions to vaccines. These have been as a result of weaknesses in the storage and distribution process unique to a nation with infrastructural challenges and not due to the vaccines themselves. Much improvements are made after these events to make them safer and work better.
Another reason parents refuse immunization for their wards is rumours about negative impacts. One of such is that they contain drugs that render their children infertile. When this is spread by cultural and religious leaders, the effect is amplified manifold. The government has had to include these leaders in fact finding missions to debunk these claims and allow their subjects to support immunization.
Even though the immunization programme currently doesn’t cover all diseases, the ones that do have largely prevented millions of vaccine-preventable deaths in under-fives and older and saved more from disability, stunting and illness. It is very crucial in the reduction of the high under-five mortality rates we have in Nigeria.
Rejection does not affect one child alone, it puts everyone at risk.
Dr Maryam Toye