NO VACILLATING ON VACCINATIONS!
Ignorance can be bliss. For decades, the success of widespread immunization of children against such illnesses as measles or polio meant that the suffering caused by these scourges on children of previous generations slowly faded from living memory. As a result, parents grew complacent over the dangers these diseases pose to children and prioritize other concerns linked to vaccinations. After all, how many people have actually witnessed the hard life of a polio survivor shackled to her iron lung these days? Besides, the hazards of vaccinations simply appear more real….
Yet, the threat of preventable children’s diseases is real and cannot be wished away. In the coming years, more and more parents will have to face a choice: risk fabricated downsides of vaccinations, or gamble with their unvaccinated children’s future. The threat will grow more acute as more and more children grow up without vaccinations. While herd immunity can indirectly protect unvaccinated children, it quickly dissipates as the percentage of vaccinated children in a community drops. Moreover, this public health problem will worsen as previously eradicated diseases make a comeback.
Our first Spotlight article by Maizura Ismail highlights the fact that measles is once again becoming a public health concern in Southeast Asia. One main reason for the re-emergence of this viral infection is the declining coverage of measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) immunization. Similar to the resistance to MMR vaccines in the West, concerns over components from porcine sources in the vaccine are enough to stop some parents in Muslim Southeast Asia from vaccinating their children. As the article notes, annual deaths from measles dropped from around two million to about 100,000 once the measles vaccine became available in 1971. With fewer vaccinations, that figure will rise again.
In a similar vein, our second Spotlight article from Malaysia’s New Straits Times makes the case that Muslim parents who deny their children vaccinations are going against the Islamic concern for the preservation of human life. While the quest for halal vaccines inches forward, parents have a duty to immunize their children for public health concerns. Islamic scholars permit the immunization of children with non-halal vaccines because doing otherwise would create a public health crisis. The misplaced scrupulousness of anti-vaccine parents raises a serious question: Are they really keeping their children safe by exposing the rest of society to higher risks of preventable infection?