New Straits Times, 24 August 2018
Public misunderstanding of vaccination has become a polemic. Many misconceptions about vaccines have persisted for decades due to poor understanding about the vaccine.
Vaccination or immunization is a preventive measure to control and combat infectious diseases. Any reduction in the rate of vaccine-preventable diseases among the public can improve the quality of life and prolong life expectancy.
Vaccines have saved millions of lives, prevented significant morbidities and even eradicated diseases. Without immunization, more children would die every year from measles, poliomyelitis, meningitis, diphtheria, and many other vaccine-preventable diseases.
Children are the most vulnerable group to vaccine-preventable diseases due to their weaker immune system. Vaccines help strengthen their immune system and protect them from potentially life-threatening complications. Hence, it is highly recommended that children are vaccinated according to the immunization schedule as recommended by the government.
Today, the public’s fear of vaccine-preventable diseases has waned and awareness of potential adverse effects of vaccination has increased, which is threatening vaccine acceptance. Therefore, society needs to be educated to increase the vaccination rate among children and address public concerns.
Routine childhood vaccinations are usually administered at a very young age. So, parents are responsible in making decisions on behalf of their children. Some Muslim parents refuse to vaccinate their children because they believe the vaccine contains illegal sources, like porcine elements. They are doubtful of the efficacy, safety and halal status of vaccines.
The authorities have to ensure that vaccines are derived from only halal and safe sources. The government and relevant agencies also have to come up with verification that all vaccines in Malaysia are halal and urge Muslim parents to vaccinate their children.
On the other hand, Muslims must take the responsibility in pioneering and promoting the halal vaccine industry to avoid any public dilemma and provide the proper solution for Muslims’ concerns. The halal vaccine initiative is said to provide substantial benefits in the health, economic, social and religious aspects. But can the initiative boost Muslim parent’s awareness on vaccinating their children?
Vaccination makes the world a safer place by saving millions of lives from preventable diseases. Perhaps, people are not aware that vaccination is in line with maqasid al-shariah as it aims to preserve human life. This preventative action corresponds with the ultimate objective of the maqasid al-shariah, which is preservation of benefits and avoidance of harm. Indeed, parents who vaccinate their children to safeguard them from vaccine-preventable diseases fulfill the maqasid al-shariah framework.
Vaccination or immunization is one of the most cost-effective measures in public healthcare and can protect and save lives from death and disability. Morbidity and mortality for many vaccine-preventable diseases have been much reduced as the vaccination rate grows. In fact, a vaccine is not a medical treatment for infectious diseases, but a preventative measure from any unexpected harm.
As stated in Surah al-Maidah, Verse 32: “…and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all mankind. Clearly, the Quran emphasizes the importance of saving lives, therefore, vaccination is not in contradiction with Islamic teachings.
Health professionals and religious leaders play an important role in addressing vaccination issues among the public. However, there is a gap between these two groups in disseminating information to society. They should complement each other in terms of enhancing people’s understanding about the importance of vaccination. Public attitude towards vaccination is shaped not just by health professionals and religious leaders, but also by other information sources, including social media.
Attitude, knowledge and practice towards health and well-being shall prevail in accordance with Islam. Public awareness needs to be improved and empowered through knowledge and authentic information from authoritative sources.
This idea needs a comprehensive synergy between religious leaders and health professionals since both groups’ interpretations on vaccines have an impact on the public’s decision making.