Maybe we should just banish the anti-vaxxers


Maybe we should banish the anti-vaxxers
By Zan Azlee

While most of Malaysia are fretting over political bickering and homosexual scandals, it seems like nobody is paying any attention to the fact that Malaysia has regressed decades… 2.7 decades to be specific.

The country had been polio-free for 27 years and then a few weeks ago, a poor little boy in Sabah was diagnosed with the disease.

Here is a simple disease that can be eradicated (it was!) simply by providing a cheap vaccine.

But now, it looks like it is making a comeback, and take note that polio can spread very fast and easily.

It can be transmitted by a person to another person, through faeces or contaminated water. You can imagine how easy an outbreak can happen.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the strain of polio that affected the child in Sabah most likely came from the Philippines (where an outbreak is happening) and it is actually a simple strain to stop.

Unfortunately, the main and most probable reason it is spreading is because people are not adequately vaccinated.

So now it comes back to the issue that has been plaguing Malaysia for the past few years – the anti-vaxxers.

The group of people who don’t believe in vaccination because they are just too smart for their own group and the rest of the world. These anti-vaxxers are broken into two general groups.

The first group is the absurd one. They are the ultra-Muslims who feel that all vaccines are haram because apparently, it contains swine, piglets, pigs, pork, gelatine, lard, bacon and ham.

They would rather their children die instead of living full lives and contribute to society just because they are scared there might be traces of pig in their bodies.

It doesn’t matter that all the religious authorities in Malaysia and around the world have certified vaccines to be halal. It doesn’t matter that ulamas and ustaz everywhere said even (and that is a very big even) if some vaccines are derived from pigs, the process of turning it into medicine would make it halal.

The second group is also absurd. They think that children can get sick or even permanently disabled due to vaccinations.

Yes, there were cases like these for some vaccines. But these all happened around thirty or forty years ago, and those vaccines have been banned. Science is much better now and cases like this don’t really happen anymore.

The thing about these anti-vaxxers is that they are endangering the lives of their innocent children because of their baseless beliefs. Not only are they endangering the lives of their own children, but also children and people everywhere in their community because, just as we have seen in Sabah, eradicated diseases are making a comeback.

For these people, we need to take serious action because they are irresponsible and endangering everyone around them.

Shockingly, immunisation for children is not required by law. All this while, I had to provide immunisation records when I wanted to register my kids in school. But only recently, I found out it isn’t legally necessary.

The government needs to buck up and enact a law to ensure every child in Malaysia is vaccinated. This should be the responsibility of the government and also of parents.

There are no two ways about it and it should not be open for any negotiations.

Immunisation is compulsory.

With all that being said, we also need to pay attention to the fact that the polio case happened in Sabah.

Sabah, and also Sarawak, suffer from a lack of infrastructure, especially in the rural areas.

Malaysia may have a very decent public healthcare system, but most of the access is in the peninsular and not in east Malaysia.

The government must ensure every community in Malaysia, regardless of urban or rural areas, must have access to adequate healthcare.

The authorities must not only serve communities that are convenient for them. If there are communities that are not convenient or accessible, then that should also be an indicator that the current infrastructure needs to be improved.

Make no mistake. Health is important and every human being needs to have access to it, whether they want it or not.

And health education must be implemented to cure the unnecessary ignorance that can harm the population.

If all the steps taken are not effective, maybe we should just banish the anti-vaxxers.

[This article was originally written for and published at Malaysiakini.com]

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