News

Overcoming Fear of Vaccinations

A aid worker left, vaccinates a woman, right, during a polio immunization campaign in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo (File Photo)
A aid worker left, vaccinates a woman, right, during a polio immunization campaign in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo (File Photo)
Joe DeCapua

A new study says fear or complacency about vaccinations can allow preventable diseases such as polio, measles and whooping cough to spread. Scientists say preventing vaccine scares should be part of global immunization policies.

A virus may be very small, but it can travel very far, very fast. Professor Chris Bauch said fear of vaccinations can help send the virus on its way.

“Vaccine scares are quite old. For example, when the first vaccine ever invented, the smallpox vaccine, was introduced, there was a lot of resistance to that vaccine as well. And people were afraid that it would turn us into cow-like hybrids because of the connection between cowpox and smallpox. And it’s happened since then in many situations,” he said.

Plenty of scares

There was a scare in the 1970’s for a pertussis or whooping cough vaccine, which lowered immunization coverage in many countries. In the 1990s, there was a big scare over the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine after some claimed it caused autism. That allegation continues to this day.

Fear over the polio vaccine in parts of Nigeria had far-reaching repercussions.

“Polio had essentially been cornered to northern Nigeria. And when the vaccine scare happened for the polio vaccine the vaccine coverage dropped so much that polio resurged and it spread not only to other parts of Nigeria, but other countries as well. So that set back the polio eradication efforts by many years,” he said.

Overall, the stories received a lot of media attention.

Why not get vaccinated?

Bauch is an associate professor of mathematics at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada. He and his colleagues developed a model looking at the relationship between disease and reaction to vaccinations.

“If you ask people why aren’t you vaccinating, one reason they’ll give is ‘I’m afraid of the vaccine.’  Another reason they might give is that ‘other parents have already been vaccinated so I don’t need to.‘ So some people who are not vaccinating are doing it because they know that they can rely upon other people having vaccinated already,” he said.

And if other children in the community are vaccinated, he said, some parents may believe their children won’t be infected. Another reason is pressure from other parents not to vaccinate.

“There seem to be two critical periods: First, when the vaccine is first introduced, because it’s a new product and many people have not been vaccinated with it yet, and so there may be distrust of it. And the second danger zone is perhaps years down the road when the disease is successfully controlled and there’s no more disease around. And so the memory of that fades and then people may start to free ride or may become afraid of the vaccine,” he said.

Bauch said when parents in developing countries see the effects of disease first hand they’re much more likely to have their children vaccinated. He says a successful immunization campaign needs a two pronged approach.

Overcoming fears

“First of all, you have to explain the data and explain the risks. And show them that here’s the vaccine risk and here’s the disease risk. And even if the disease is rare you’re still more likely to get seriously ill from the disease than you are from the vaccine,” he said, adding, “The second approach which is very effective is actually to talk about what you’ve done. For example, I have two children who are three and five and they’ve gotten all their vaccines. So obviously if I’m willing to vaccinate my own children then I must be telling the truth when I say it’s a safe product because I wouldn’t give something to my children that’s harmful.”

Bauch said the goal is to better understand how people behave and then give that information to policymakers.

“For example, we want to be able to tell the policymakers if a given country is perhaps more susceptible to vaccine scares than others – especially if it’s a new vaccine that’s being introduced and we don’t have history to go on. And second of all, we want to be able to tell them if a vaccine scare has happened and vaccine coverage has dropped to dangerously low levels, what are the best ways to get that up,” he said.

He warned that vaccine scares could actually become more common as disease “eradication goals are approached.” With fewer outbreaks, some may no longer see the need for vaccinations. Bauch said vaccines, at times, are victims of their own success.  The study findings were published in PloS Computational Biology.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs