Threats to vaccinations

Vaccinations have been hailed as being one of the major achievements in the 20th Century which have eradicated several diseases and our response system. But not everyone agrees. In the past few years, the opposition to vaccines has risen in countries around the world.

This has given rise to anti-vaxxers who disagree with the use of vaccinations and consider it an infringement of their fundamental rights. These people oppose their use and spread misinformation about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines which has resulted in a surge of infectious diseases. This is not a new concept and there has been opposition as long as there have been vaccines. The criticism has been based on sanitary, religious and political reasons while the clergy believed that vaccines went against religion and vehemently opposed them.

Vaccinations are now even more necessary during the pandemic. The United States has administered more than 300 million doses but the last hurdle lies in convincing the anti-vaxxers. Many states have come with bizarre schemes such as lottery and awarding guns just to convince people to receive the jab. Parents cite health risks such as autism as potential consequences for not being vaccinated. It is rather mindboggling that people even in the developed countries have such myopic views.

In Pakistan, vaccines have been considered a Western conspiracy to control the population and sterilize children. Militants have frequently targeted polio workers and policemen during vaccination drives.  Health workers face death threats to their lives just to vaccinate children from the paralyzing disease. Pakistan is just one of two countries where polio is endemic and might be the last if we do not take adequate steps.

The killing of two policemen in Mardan area of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is once again a reminder that polio teams face grave threats to their lives. The prime minister launched a countrywide campaign to inoculate 12 million children but the obstacles remain. Now the nation is facing a herculean task as it vaccinates against the coronavirus to bring the pandemic under control.

We need to end the mistrust in vaccines and inoculate ourselves and our children. The risk of a vaccine, if any, is certainly much smaller than developing a disease. We need to trust the science and health experts to protect our lives and those around us.