Doctors warn against anti-vaccine movement in Vietnam

As an anti-vaccine movement spreads amongst Vietnamese parents, local doctors have warned that not having their children vaccinated will harm not only the kids but the whole community.

Local parents began fearing vaccination for their children after a couple of cases in which young patients have died shortly after being vaccinated.

Several Facebook pages have been created to spread the message that children should not be vaccinated but should allow their immune systems to develop independently.

One such group, named “Vaccine – Yes or No?”, has seen its membership grow to 20,000 over the last month.

The majority of the group members have confirmed that they have never had their children vaccinated, while others have said they have not had their kids receive the full number of required injections.

Other members have expressed unsubstantiated claims that vaccination could lead to autism.

The anti-vaccine movement has resulted in immediate consequences: the number of encephalitis and whooping cough cases, diseases that are totally preventable by vaccination, has increased in Vietnam.

During the Jan-May period this year, 119 cases of whooping cough were recorded, with two children eventually killed by the disease.

A huge number of those patients were found to have either received no or insufficient vaccinations against it.

Similarly, while children are expected to get encephalitis shots, 21 cases of infection were recorded in June alone, with many patients in a critical condition after not being vaccinated.

A child being treated for encephalitis

Pham Quang Thai, head of the northern branch of the vaccination office under the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology, shifted the blame directly to the online anti-vaccine movement.

“When more people refuse to have their children vaccinated, the community’s immunity is reduced, making it easier for outbreaks to occur,” he told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.

Community immunity, or ‘herd immunity’, plays a crucial role in preventing outbreaks of disease.

When a critical portion of a community is immunized against a contagious disease, most members of the community are protected against that disease because there is little opportunity for an outbreak.

“So the anti-vaccine movement weakens herd immunity, especially in urban areas, where local residents are able to access different sources of information online,” Thai said.

Thai added supporters of the anti-vaccine movement have “relied too much on unverified or inaccurate information” and even information that has been proven false, such as “vaccination leads to autism.”

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