Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Vaccine distrust

Drugs and medicines are what a person takes when he/she is sick. Vaccine is what a person takes (via injection) when he/she is well and not sick. The former is curative, the latter is preventive. That's the big difference between the two.

Thus, it is somehow understandable that some people, or many people, will have "vaccine distrust." They or kids' parents suspect that there might be some side effects, in the short-term or long-tern, if one will take certain substances into the body even if he/she is not sick.

My 4 years and 3 months old daughter used a similar reasoning when we took her for to her pediatrician about 2 weeks ago for her vaccination. She argued, "Papa, I'm not sick. I dont want to see a doctor. The needle is painful." And she really protested upon seeing the vial even if she did not see the needle yet!

There was an article in yahoo news yesterday, UN health chief concerned about vaccine 'mistrust'. The report said,

GENEVA (AFP) – World Health Organisation chief Margaret Chan warned Monday that the health community needs to tackle strong and "worrisome" public mistrust of vaccines, following signs of a tail-off in flu vaccination...

"In some cases, persuading the public to seek vaccination has become even more problematic than during the pandemic," the director general said at the beginning of the board's annual meeting...

Global efforts to eradicate polio were hit by a year long halt to immunisation in Nigeria in 2003, when radical Muslim clerics and some doctors raised unproven concerns about vaccine safety, allowing the disease to spread.

Controlling and preventing disease outbreak is one important function of government. This is unlike preventing lifestyle-related diseases like throat and lung cancer due to heavy smoking, liver cancer due to heavy drinking, hypertension due to sedentary lifestyle, and so on. For lifestyle-related diseases, a growing trend in many countries around the world now, there is little role for government responsibility. The matter is better left to personal and parental responsibility. Thus, those people should get their own health insurance on top of the national health insurance provided by many governments.

Vaccine distrust can be addressed by proper health education by independent health professionals, like the family pediatrician or community physicians. Taking in vaccines for the kids at young age plus healthy lifestyle as they grow old with more parental guidance and discipline, are good moves to ensure a healthy population.

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