Whilst many may laud the life-saving role of vaccines, there are many individuals and communities that treat them with suspicion. Professor Zabidi notes with some regret several worldwide incidents that have unfortunately tainted the good work and noble cause behind the creation of vaccines.
He gave the example of a well-known controversy surrounding an article by Andrew Wakefield published in the renowned medical journal, The Lancet in 1998, which claimed that the MMR vaccine causes autism in children. Although the worldwide medical community denounced the article as spreading unnecessary fear in the community through unverified facts, and the article was subsequently retracted by The Lancet in 2010, but the immediate fallout and damage it created was substantial.
Not only did the article and controversy spawn the rise of the global anti-vaxxers movement in the late 1990s but the resulting number of children who subsequently became ill with measles and the sudden outbreaks of disease in communities in the United Kingdom and America also increased significantly. The unwillingness of parents to vaccinate their children greatly burdened the public health system of those countries.
“Some parents have also raised concerns of the use of thimerosal, a mercury containing compound as a preservative for flu-vaccines. Rest assured, as reported by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), except for some flu vaccines in multi-dose vials (to safeguard against contamination of the vials), no other childhood vaccines contain thimerosal as a preservative. Reputable scientific studies have not found any evidence or association between thimerosal in vaccines and autism,” he says.
Professor Zabidi reiterates that vaccines for children are safe with few side effects as they are developed after many years of research and have undergone numerous clinical trials. He encourages parents of young children to check with their nearest government clinic on their child’s immunisation schedule if they have not already done so.
“Many parents may have reservations in bringing their children to a clinic or hospital for fear of exposing them to COVID-19 in the current pandemic. However, vaccinations need to be timely to be effective. Do stick to the vaccination schedule whenever possible to ensure optimal protection for your child,” he says. “Observe current SOPs to keep yourself and your child safe.”
Professor Zabidi hopes Malaysian parents will heed the call to immunise their children against potentially harmful diseases. “Immunisation is an important component of primary health care and a human right. The best gift you could give your child is a shot at a healthy start in life.”
By Professor Dr Zabidi Azhar Mohd Hussin
IMU Pro Vice Chancellor, Academic with a special interest in Paediatric Neurology and Medical Education