GEORGE TOWN, July 29 – Parents in a growing anti-vaccination wave say it is a personal choice based on their own research and experience, even as concerned health authorities seek to nip the movement in the bud.
One such parent, 40-year-old father Kelvin Chua, chose not to vaccinate both his daughters because he believed that the side effects from the shots are harmful to young children.
“Vaccines are made from live or inactive viruses and vaccination means we are voluntarily injecting our children with viruses which can be harmful to them,” he said in a telephone interview with The Malay Mail Online.
Chua said there are other healthier ways to prevent the infectious diseases, such as practising a healthy lifestyle and strengthening one’s immune system through proper food and hygiene.
“We have to boost our own immune system so our own bodies can fight off all these infectious diseases,” he said.
But also Chua said it was a choice he and his family made, and not one he would impose on others.
“It is a personal choice and it is actually up to the individual on whether they want to depend on vaccination and medication to protect them from diseases instead of depending on natural, safer and healthier ways,” he said.
He also believed that his choice does not expose his children to the risks of contracting any communicable diseases, saying he and his wife continuously built up their children’s immune system through “natural” ways.
“Even when my daughter contracted hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD), we used the natural way to help her heal using pro-biotics, and of course, we don’t let her mix around with other children until she is healed,” he added.
Another parent, Erina Law, 38, said she stopped taking both her children for immunisations and did not allow them to take the booster shots provided at schools a few years ago.
Law, whose son was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at the age of two, said she and her husband both suspected that vaccination may have caused their son’s condition.
“Of course we know there are studies saying there was no link and we did let both our kids to be vaccinated up to the age of six and four years old respectively,” she said.
She said after her son developed autism, she completely stopped bringing her children to hospitals or doctors.
Now, they visit a homeopathy practitioner instead for their health needs.
Homeopathy is a form of alternative medicine that is based on treating ailments with remedies that are diluted thousands of times over – to the point that the original contents are no longer detectable in the concoctions; homeopathy believes each dilution makes the remedy more potent.
“It is based on my own experience that I believe homeopathy is better,” she said and recounted how a homeopathy doctor had treated her son who had swollen testicles due to an infection with homeopathy medication when a hospital had actually recommended that her child, Delwin, undergo an operation.
She also believed that the contents of the vaccines could cause cancer and decided that it was better that both her children not get any more innoculations but to depend solely on homeopathy.
“Our homeopathy doctor also told us that vaccines have side effects,” she said.
She added that even with vaccination, people still contract contagious diseases. This, she argued, showed that inoculation does not really work.
“We just have to boost our immune system with a lot of nutritious food and we use homeopathy that we believe is very effective,” she said.
The Penang state government recently expressed concern over the spread of an anti-immunisation movement by advocates online claiming, among others, that vaccines have serious side effects such as causing autism and were non-halal.
State health exco Dr Afif Bahardin had reassured Muslim parents that the vaccines are halal and a fatwa (edict) in 1989 had decreed that vaccination is permissible to Muslims.
He also said the national immunisation programme had undergone stringent tests by the government and is safe for all. And although he conceded that they are side effects, he explained that these were minimal compared to the diseases the inoculations prevent.
One Muslim parents who chose not to vaccinate his child, Marwan Shukriman, 24, said he and his eight siblings were not vaccinated and all of them grew up without any serious health issues.
“I noticed some of my friends or their children also contracted diseases that the vaccination supposedly prevent so I don’t believe immunisation can prevent these diseases from being spread, but our lifestyle and diet are the main factors for a strong immune system to fight diseases,” he said.
He also said there are doubts regarding the contents of vaccines, saying they were obtained from non-halal sources such as pig stomachs, monkey hearts and other animal parts.
“As a Muslim, I believe that we are all created perfect as stated in the al Quran so we do not need to depend on ingredients that are not food sources to help with our growth,” he added.
Another parent, Connie Mooi, was not against vaccines but believed that those who are anti-vaccination have done their own research and were convinced of the harm that vaccination could cause.
“I am quite neutral on this as I have not done any research on this but I hope those who are propagating this (anti-vaccination) not be too insistent in telling others not to vaccinate their babies but, instead, just provide their research and the links so that the parents could form their own decisions,” she said.
The owner of the Happy Dolphin Confinement Centre said she has not encountered parents who have refused vaccination but advised all parents to thoroughly research the matter before making a decision instead of just listening to what people say.
Though anti-vaccination parents consider it their personal choice not to vaccinate their children, some parents are not amused with their decision.
Media practitioner CS Ngui, 30, said that while modern society is fighting to improve health and longevity with medical breakthroughs such as vaccinations, vaccine deniers were instead working to undo the hard-won progress.
“Vaccination works as it has been tested countless times as compared to traditional methods that were used based on hearsay with no protocol to test the efficacy of the methods,” he said.
Mother of two, 33-year-old Sai Banu, believed that vaccination is required for all children.
“No individual should have the right to risk the health of the public solely for the purpose of satisfying their personal moral, philosophical, or religious views as vaccines can eradicate disease and prevent serious illness and death,” she said.