HealthOpinionSocial issues

Anti-Vaxxers: The Next Pandemic?

(PerthNow, 2018)

Recently there has been a lot more public display of anti-vaccination. The anti-vaxxer trend has taken an all-time high from the days of Pauline Hanson expressing her “interesting” views in Parliament House. The people of Australia have now reached an era where misinformed information can be transmitted to the general public by Billboards instead of politicians.

There has been concern from the anti-vaxxers about the key ingredients found in modern vaccines, whether or not vaccines actually work and the risk of becoming infected after immunisation. This has been leading to the vigilante behaviour of ‘pro-vaxxers’ and their acts of vandalism to express their beliefs and frustration.

As a biomedical student that has experience both with researching and working with specimen taken from vaccinated patients, I can confidently say, although some vaccinations possess a live viral agent, this does not support the notion that people should not be vaccinated because vaccinations make patients sick. Live viral agents have been modified, therefore the risk of the virus reverting back to its ‘wild’ state and causing infection is extremely low.

Decades upon decades of research have been successfully conducted to weigh up the benefits and risks of patients before any anti-viral agent will be made available to the general public. In Australia, the Therapeutic Goods Association is required to make the final decision of what is generally regarded as ‘safe’ to be prescribed by clinical doctors, before any treatment or vaccine can be administered to members of the public.

Personally, I believe that the claim that the benefits of vaccines outweigh the risks, as well as the research supporting it, is accurate. In clinical laboratories, I have worked with infectious diseases, measles for example, and have been able to determine which patients have been immunised previously based on their antibody marker responding for measles. Two particular antibodies, IgG and IgM, are very important in the clinical diagnostics of viruses. If IgG antibody levels appear high then that is conclusive that the patient has been exposed to the viral agent previously and possesses immunological memory against that particular virus. If IgM levels present very low, this generally indicates that the infection is older than 30 days. The latter was seen if the patients were recently infected by measles or newly vaccinated, and would mean the patient has no immunological memory to the disease and has a current infection. The key knowledge discovered during these studies was that patients whom had not been immunised prior to the exposure of the measles virus, became infected by the virus, meanwhile, the patients that had been immunised did not.

The extensive research that has been reported thus far is a significantly more reliable and valid source than  a group of friends or public figures that lack a medical education and decide to take the anti-vax stance. Yes, it is true that a lot of insightful information can be found online and this could bring into question the necessity of higher education institutes in modern times. But not everything found on ‘Doctor Google’ is valid, and there comes a time where people should try to understand that not everything in life follows the same logic and is subjective.

My oncology tutor once told me that if your car isn’t working, you wouldn’t take it to the doctor, just like if you’re health is in question, you wouldn’t go to a mechanic. This makes perfect sense, as in life we all have strengths and weaknesses. There is no shame in accepting that you do not possess a level of knowledge that allows you to understand certain information or perform a certain job. We all have a different journey in life, a different purpose and it is not humanly possible to see and understand everything in one person’s lifetime, and I think that needs to be accepted. Sadly, if this reckless attitude of anti-vaxxers continues to persist and spread, in the not so distant future, the human race could find itself on the battlefield with a pandemic. To prevent such unfortunate events, we should leave medical matters to the professionals.

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