VACCINE MYTHS BUSTED
There are many falsehoods around vaccines. Arm yourself with the truth
Polio has indeed been eliminated in South Africa — we haven’t had any cases since 1989. However, there is still polio circulating in the world. “While there is still some ‘wild type’ polio circulating in the world, no one is safe against polio and that is why we continue to be vaccinated,” says Dr Melinda Suchard of the Centre for Vaccines and Immunology at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD).
Infections for diseases you are vaccinated for may be low in South Africa, but if too many people don’t vaccinate their children they open up opportunities for diseases to (re-)enter our population and spread. With global travel being so prevalent, all it takes is one infected person to arrive in South Africa and you (and your children) will be at risk. Indeed, one baby in Kwazulu-natal died two years ago from diphtheria, while five more were critically ill. These may seem like small numbers, but they are alarming facts when you consider that these children needn’t have caught diphtheria at all.
The reason people may feel that they no longer need to be vaccinated for these diseases is actually because of the success of vaccines, says Dr Suchard. “Because these diseases are so rare we have lost our fear of them. But if you speak to your grandparents about these types of diseases, they can tell you horrible stories about how common they were and the side effects they have and the deaths they caused.” in children. “Some parents may be lucky and their child may have a mild infection, but for the one unlucky parent whose child becomes blind or deaf from meningitis caused by haemophilus or measles, there is no going back. The complications of these infections are well known, are highly possible and likely and one shouldn’t take them lightly,” says Dr Suchard.
Do you have friends or family planning on starting a family? Consider their safety too. Women infected with measles while pregnant are at risk of severe complications and the pregnancy may end in miscarriage or preterm delivery.