A Physician’s Plea to Those Who Don’t Vaccinate
Jul 14, 2016
What value do vaccines have in your life?
Throughout July and August, Shot of Prevention is encouraging people to address this question. Today’s guest post, by clinical cardiologist Dharmaraj Karthikesan, provides a personal perspective from someone who is genuinely concerned about the health and well-being of people who choose not to vaccinate themselves or their children.
Here’s what Dr. Karthikesan has to say:
I’ve heard people say that deaths from preventable diseases are the will of God. Indeed all men must die, but not all have to die stupid. I believe ignorance is deadly. Sadly, it can also be contagious.
My issue resides with people who are opposed to vaccination and recently this issue became very personal.
See, I have a new nephew in the family. He lives in another country and so I only get to see him on Skype. However, his parents were considering a visit and I was really looking forward to seeing him. But due to the outbreak of diphtheria in Malaysia, where I live, I advised his parents to postpone their visit. See my nephew hasn’t completed his vaccination schedule and I feared for his health.
My fears are not unfounded. This is the reality we are living in; where our lives are dictated by the decision of others. And every decision not to vaccinate affects the health of others in our community and in our world.
As a doctor, I try to appeal to people’s sense and reason when they tell me that they have decided against vaccinating. Sometimes that communication fails and so I’ve decided to try to employ one other method.
Do you instinctively feel that your child is safe without vaccination?
Do you instinctively feel secure knowing that your child will recover regardless of the infectious disease that they may contract?
Do you instinctively feel impervious to all manner of infectious disease, even those which are airborne, just because you eat a certain diet or take certain homeopathic remedies?
If it is difficult to honestly answer these questions affirmatively, then I beg you to consider what I have to say.
Vaccines are safe.
I state the obvious first. I understand and empathize with those who feel that vaccines are dangerous and those who believe vaccines can be harmful or detrimental to health. Let’s assume that this is true. For a moment, let’s assume they are worse than death, or worse than the defects and disabilities they cause.
Let’s start with polio, which can cause disability and even suffocation if it involves the breathing muscles. Assuming your child recovers from polio, he may never run or play like a normal child. Are you prepared to accept that?
How about diphtheria, which affects your child’s breathing. In severe forms, it can affect the heart and nerves leading to death. Are you willing to take that chance?
Now how about pertussis, which is known to cause violent, uncontrollable coughing making it extremely difficult for a child to get air into their lungs. About half of babies who get pertussis need care in the hospital, and 1 out of 100 babies will die. Is this the kind of suffering you want for your child?
There are serious dangers with all vaccine preventable diseases. However, vaccines work to prevent infection by developing an immunity that imitates the infection. This imitation spares one from suffering with severe illness. Instead, vaccination allows the immune system to develop an arsenal of weapons in the form of’ ‘antibodies’. If your child should ever be exposed to these infections in the future, these antibodies will prevent the infection from spreading to your child by eliminating the threat early and preventing your child from getting sick. It’s quite simple actually. Once the body knows the ‘enemy’, it is better able to defeat it.
So the question that begs for an answer is this;
Do you want your child to be facing these diseases alone, or do you want a strong arsenal of vaccines helping to form a protective shield?
The choice is yours. But that’s the problem actually. Vaccines are a choice and people’s choices are sometimes influenced by inaccurate information.
Doctors don’t make money from selling vaccines.
I’ve heard people justify their refusal of vaccines by saying that doctors only recommend vaccines because they make money from them. What they don’t realize is this. The very people who convince them to despise doctors and modern medicine are actually doing so in order to make money from their fear and ignorance.
Let’s assume doctors are indeed making money from vaccines (which in most countries are given for free under their national health programme) . Isn’t it then fair to ask if the alternative medicine practitioners are offering their services for free?
I challenge you to do this; if someone comes to you and says that vaccines are a propaganda of certain individuals (such as doctors, pharmaceutical companies or even governments), ask them if the alternative they are proposing is free. Are the essential oils, herbs and other health offerings offered out of the goodwill of these practitioners without expecting any monetary payment in return? I suspect that will be the last you hear of their goodwill and sage advice.
As an adult cardiologist, I don’t administer vaccines. However, science tells us that vaccination can help prevent stress on our hearts that can result from various infections such as influenza. This is why I support vaccines. Because I know it can help save the lives of my patients who I care very deeply about.
Your choice endangers others.
The most unacceptable outcome of not vaccinating is when an intentionally non-vaccinated person spreads an infection to others.
Vaccinated individuals help form a barrier around others who cannot tolerate vaccination due to defects in their immune system. Also, young babies are especially vulnerable to these deadly infections while they are too young to complete their vaccination schedule. By having a large percentage of the population vaccinated, we can help contain the spread of infection through ‘herd immunity’.
Unfortunately, one person’s decision to not vaccinate themselves or their children can result in the spread of infection to countless other innocent lives.
If you choose not to vaccinate,
Have you ever taken the time to speak with someone who has been permanently disabled as a result of a vaccine preventable disease?
Have you talked to a parent who has lost a child who was too young to be vaccinated?
Have you ever spoken to a parent whose unvaccinated child has suffered from a vaccine preventable disease and asked them how it felt to watch their child suffer? Or asked the child themselves how they liked suffering when their pain could have been avoided with a simple vaccine?
Have you forgotten that your parents likely vaccinated you when you were young and you are still alive today?
Good intentions don’t always make for good decisions.
I will not vilify those who refuse vaccines. I know that they believe they are making the right decision and that they believe vaccines are in some way harmful. But I just want them to realize how dangerous the diseases are that we are trying to contain and even hopefully eradicate.
Does it scare you when your child develops a fever after vaccination? Understand that it happens because your child has a healthy immune system, which is now producing the aforementioned antibodies.
Does it frighten you to see the rise of autoimmune diseases, environmental allergies, life-threatening food allergies, ADHD, seizure disorders, asthma, and cancer? Have you considered that you, your parents and possibly even your grandparents have been vaccinated. So why would vaccines suddenly result in the rise of these conditions now? Perhaps there are other explanations.
Vaccine safety has been extensively studied, so why do you steadfastly hold on to the belief that vaccines are dangerous? Do you really believe that there is a huge international conspiracy to hide the truth? And do you have any credible studies to back your claims?
Have you considered that there may be other causes to the ailments and “injuries” that you claim are a result of vaccination?
Ignorance and ego are twin beasts that devour us from within – they prevent us from gaining sense and perspective. So I beg of you; read and reflect on what I have written here. I am not the enemy. And you are not mine. I just honestly want what’s best for you and your children, and I want your decisions to stop threatening the welfare of those I love and care about. And that includes you and your children.
I want to live in a world that is safe from preventable diseases – a world that is not shackled by fear and stricken with disease. I want to be able to have my nephew visit me in Malaysia without concern that it may cost him his life.
As Thomas Sowell once said,
“It takes considerable knowledge just to realize the extent of your own ignorance.”
So I am pleading to those who currently refuse vaccines. Seek knowledge beyond where you are currently seeking it. Act with compassion knowing that your decisions may actually be dangerous to those you love the most. Be courageous enough to consider that you may have misjudged vaccines. And if nothing else, be compassionate!
A note about the author: Dharmaraj Karthikesan is a clinical cardiologist who has also worked as a physician in the infectious disease unit of Hospital Sultanah Bahiyah, Alor Setar and as the head of internal medicine department in a district hospital in Lahad Datu, Malaysia. He is passionate about immunizations and often writes about his perspectives in articles published in local newspapers, Asian Scientist Magazine, the American College of Cardiology and on his personal blog “My life as a doctor and the way I see it…”
Please consider sharing your own story about the value of vaccines by contacting us at email@example.com.
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