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A Look at Vaccine Hesitancy

In a study published in 1998, Andrew Wakefield and colleagues published a paper in the journal Lancet. The paper hypothesized that the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine caused a series of events that include intestinal inflammation, entrance into the bloodstream of proteins harmful to the brain, and consequent development of autism. In another attempt in 2002, Wakefield published another paper studying the relationship between measles and autism.


As soon as the studies were published, the scientific community banded together to see if these conclusions were true, because if they were, these findings would change the face of medicine. As both these studies were scrutinized, they were quickly proved false and were discredited. But the damage had been done. The Anti-Vaxx movement had formed a foundation and began its influence over society.


According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. There is often nothing about how people with ASD look that sets them apart from other people, but people with ASD may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that are different from most other people. The learning, thinking, and problem-solving abilities of people with ASD can range from gifted to severely challenged. Some people with ASD need a lot of help in their daily lives; others need less.


A diagnosis of ASD now includes several conditions that used to be diagnosed separately: autistic disorder, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), and Asperger syndrome. These conditions are now all called autism spectrum disorder. There is no single, known cause of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). But it’s clear that what parents do or don’t do doesn’t cause ASD in children. Causes of ASD might include genes, brain development, family history and other factors.


The Anti-Vaxx Movement gained momentum with the dawn of the internet and social media. Now people had a place to share their misinformation and spread their ‘knowledge’ to others. There were various other issues intertwined within this movement such as; healthcare as a fundamental right, the right to choose, pro life believers, etc. It reached mainstream concerns when the percentage of unvaccinated children grew so much that schools all over the country made vaccinations mandatory.


Diseases like the measles, that were well contained due to vaccinations were now on the rise due to parents not getting their kids vaccinated. With the onset of the COVID 19 pandemic, the debate around vaccinations reached a fever pitch. The vaccination for the virus released for the public by various drug companies from December of 2020 and booster shots being released throughout the year, the number of people who refused to be vaccinated rose. This meant that those who didn't get the vaccine were endangering others. With the changing nature of the virus, things got very unpredictable.



So, why are people refusing to get vaccinated? In an interview with the newspaper of University of Connecticut, Dr. Jody Terranova, a pediatrician and assistant professor of pediatrics at the university, answered some basic questions as a practicing medical professional. In the interview, she details the importance of vaccines and reiterates that they are safe and those who are eligible for the vaccine should take it. Vaccines are modern medical marvels, with the push of an injection you can protect yourself from life threatening disease. Yet due to a now discredited study and misinformation these tools are not being used and people, more specifically children’s lives are being put in danger.


While some might think that vaccine hesitancy might just be a western concept, it is much more common in India as well. In India along with the fear of the vaccines safety, religious reasons were also stated as some of the main reasons for refusing to get vaccinated. As of 16 February 2022, India has administered over 1.73 billion doses overall, including first, second and precautionary doses of the currently approved vaccines. This is a pretty big number considering India’s population and it’s rural and urban populations. But a whopping 7% of the population is still unvaccinated and that is a very big issue.


A study conducted by the online community platform LocalCircles received 12,810 responses from citizens -- 67% men and 33% women -- across 301 districts. According to the researchers of the study, the result suggests that an overall 46% of unvaccinated citizens plan to take their first dose soon. However, they also said that almost 27% of citizens who do not plan to take the vaccine yet as they are not convinced whether the currently available ones provide enough protection from the current and future variants of coronavirus.


In January 2020, the number was even higher at 20%. But these numbers drastically reduced with the brutal second wave that hit the country in April and May of the same year. Keeping all this in mind, now more than ever it is very important to get vaccinated. Not only the COVID vaccine but also the other required vaccines. With the onset of climate change and the changing environment of the planet, we need to protect ourselves from these diseases that science has already found an answer for.


References

Dineshwori, L. (2021, June 28). Vaccine hesitancy: Top reasons why many Indians refuse Covid-19 vaccine. TheHealthSite.com. https://www.thehealthsite.com/news/top-reasons-for-covid-vaccine-hesitancy-in-india-know-the-facts-too-822367/


Jeffrey S. Gerber and Paul A. Offit. (n.d.). Vaccines and Autism: A Tale of Shifting Hypotheses. PMC. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2908388/


Robson, D. (2021, July 20). Why some people don't want a Covid-19 vaccine. BBC. https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20210720-the-complexities-of-vaccine-hesitancy


Vardilos, D. (2019, June 10). The Ongoing Debate About Vaccines - UConn Today. UConn Today. https://today.uconn.edu/2019/06/ongoing-debate-vaccines-safe/#


What is Autism Spectrum Disorder? (n.d.). CDC. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/facts.html



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