The controversial debate about vaccination has been ongoing for a considerable time. Since the global pandemic started at the beginning of March 2020, new discussions regarding the vaccination have sparked.
The discourse on vaccination has divided the public into two camps. While some people are in favor of vaccination, others believe in its detrimental effects. Meanwhile, vaccine hesitancy has been recognized by the World Health Organization as one of the top ten threats to human health.
Breakthrough in medicine
“Vaccination is considered one of the main victories of medicine,” said pharmacist Maria Ceha. Ceha received a Master’s degree in Health management in Russia, and as a medical professional is concerned about a massive refusal of vaccinations by people in Russia. According to UNICEF, the main reasons behind anti-vaccination discussions in Russia are people’s ethical beliefs and far-fetched threats of developmental disabilities.
It is enough to mention the reduction in the level of epidemic danger of controlled infections, “the elimination of smallpox in the world and a significant progress in the elimination of polio and measles,” Ceha argued. Behind this concise list of facts are hundreds of millions of saved lives of children and adults, and a huge humanitarian and economic contribution to the development of world civilization.
Ceha acknowledged that vaccines are not universal, and may have side effects with each person’s body reacting uniquely. She continued that the advantage of this preventive treatment method is the mass effect. Particularly, the strong immunity of all residents allows them to achieve resistance to various diseases and prevent an epidemiological outbreak.
“Any medicinal product is authorized and placed on the market only if the benefits outweigh the risks, so no adverse reaction can be more dangerous than the consequences of the disease,” emphasized the pharmacist.
Political ideology behind anti-vaccination
The vaccine is the most efficient way to prevent a range of diseases. However, there is an anti-vaccination movement that criticizes the way immunizations are carried out.
One of the creators of the worldwide anti-vaccination movement is British physician Andrew Wakefield, author of the study “MMR vaccination and autism” published in 1999, which argues that vaccines against measles, mumps, and rubella could cause autism. Although this study has been rejected by scientists worldwide, it continues to attract supporters.
Leonardo Chalhub, a 31-year-old Brazilian historian from Rio de Janeiro, thinks that people should look back in history to understand why in 2020 there are still people who disbelieve in science. In Brazil, during the coronavirus pandemic, the anti-vaccination movement has been increasingly growing.
“In the last few years, there was a great increase not only in the extreme right movement but also in movements that refuse to follow certain trends that were already established as certain. For example, it is a universal truth that the earth is round. However, some people are now claiming again that the earth is flat,” he said.
The main concern of the anti-vaccination movement is that the vaccine presents something evil. “In Brazil, people protest against the “Vachina” [Chinese vaccine]. They are not just against the vaccine itself, but also against China. There is a whole political ideology behind it.”
Chalhub proceeded to explain that the extreme right movement has deep roots in those conspiracy theories: “That is how they gain force. Many radical politicians on the extreme right are elected based on these lies. By attracting supporters who think alike.”
Based on his knowledge about the history of vaccines, Chalhub considers himself pro-vaccination and pro-science. “Based on all the scientific research we have so far, I believe in the importance of vaccination and in voting for politicians who support science,” he said.
A Lithuanian male, pro-vaccination activist Patrikas Rudys, in his early 20s, has been virtually attacked by anti-vaccination Facebook group members because of his post about the benefits of vaccination. However, he remained positive and argued that people will choose whom to believe: “It is either the notorious anti-vaccination group, known for its lies and disinformation, or science.”
Lithuania, like many countries globally, has a great division in terms of vaccination discourse. There was a notorious and massive anti-vaccination group called “Unfollow 15 min” on Facebook with over 200,000 followers. However, its tremendous dissemination of fake news has encouraged Lithuanian authorities to delete it.
Some people, experts argue, believe that vaccination does not come without its devastating side effects, with their deliberations being based on beliefs and great exposure to disinformation. These reasons are among the most popular ones that people reflect on when considering vaccination drawbacks.
“There are numerous myths and fake facts about vaccination. However, considering facts, it is scientifically proven that some vaccines are safe and bear considerably more advantages than the risk of the disease which could even be deadly,” Rudys said. He added that nowadays due to the ubiquity of the internet, it has become relatively simple to post fake news and introduce conspiracy theories, making it extremely easy for internet users to access these discussions.
Conspiracy theories play a crucial role in anti-vaccination discussions. Manifestations in several European countries, including England and Germany, gathered crowds to protest against the COVID-19 vaccine and lockdown. Many defenders of the anti-vaccination movement believe that COVID-19 was intentionally manufactured in a laboratory in the Chinese city Wuhan, where the pandemic started.
The vaccination debate has increasingly grown in Brazil, Russia, and Lithuania this year due to the threat of COVID-19. Although the vaccine against COVID-19 has not yet been invented, many people are not convinced about its benefits for humanity, although it is scientifically proven that 75% of the population needs to get vaccinated to receive immunity and prevent the spread of coronavirus.
However, is it ethical to make vaccination obligatory to avoid a possible economic collapse caused by COVID-19? It is up to the health authorities to decide.