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Malaysia:Myth busters out to give antidote to anti-vaccine arguments

27 Jan, 2019
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 Those who oppose vaccination often cite a variety of reasons ranging from doubts on the halal status of vaccines to their allegedly questionable contents.

Sometimes, they even invoke conspiracy theories involving a “New World Order” which they claim manufactured viruses before developing vaccines in order to make a profit.

These people or groups, known as anti-vaxxers, sometimes refer to a paper published in 2011 by Dr A Majid Katme, a spokesman for the Islamic Medical Association in the UK.

Majid argued that vaccine ingredients contain, among others, heavy metals, pus from the sores of diseased animals, urine, faecal matter, formaldehyde and carcinogens, sorbitol, gelatine, and monosodium glutamates.

However, a group of doctors calling themselves the Medical Mythbusters Malaysia (M3) are going all out on Facebook to prove otherwise.

M3’s efforts are especially pertinent given the recent surge in reports of vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles.

Dr Mohd Syamirulah Rahim, one of over 20 doctors in M3, said the efficacy and safety of vaccines were among the most extensively researched topics in scientific journals.

“While nothing is 100% safe, from paracetamols to natural foods, the safety profile of each and every vaccine has been thoroughly studied,” he told FMT.

“It is well established that their benefits far outweigh the risk of side effect and complications.”

He also panned the theory of a New World Order behind the push for vaccines, saying it does not make sense.

 

Vaccines only make up around 3% of the pharmaceutical market, he said, and the cost of treating vaccine-preventable diseases is much higher than the cost of mass vaccinations.

“If we’re considering a New World Order perspective, wouldn’t it be more profitable if there were no vaccines to prevent these diseases and complications, so that greater profit could be made from treating them?”

As for the use of preservatives in vaccines, another common claim by anti-vaxxers, Syamirulah said these were found in many products, including pharmaceutical ones.

Of more import, he said, was the amount found in any given product. “It’s the dose that makes the poison.”

For vaccines, the level of preservatives complies with international safety standards and would not be enough to cause any health hazards, compared to vaccine-preventable diseases which could lead to death.

Another common claim by those who oppose vaccination is that vaccines contain mercury.

However, Syamirulah explained that in Malaysia, vaccines contain only ethyl-mercury, which is different from the hazardous inorganic mercury found in thermometers.

Even then, he added, ethyl-mercury only remains in the body for up to seven days before it is fully expelled through excretion.

Based on the latest evidence, he said, the dose of ethyl-mercury in vaccines makes any effort to link it with neurological toxicity “biologically implausible”.

Syamirulah also addressed the notion that it is better to boost immunity through “natural ways”, saying vaccines are meant for protection against specific diseases caused by bacteria or viruses.

“This should not be confused with our innate, non-specific immunity which protects our body in general,” he said, adding that in any case, not all “natural” things are safe.

He cautioned against referring solely to Majid’s research as there are many other authorities, including local and international Islamic scholars, who advocate vaccination.

He added that in 2013, the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) and the health ministry had ruled that all vaccine products used in the ministry’s facilities are permissible and contain no haram ingredients.

As for anti-vaxxers’ claim that millions of babies lived in good health before the development of vaccines, Syamirulah simply pointed to the abundance of data attributing infant mortality over the decades to vaccine-preventable diseases like smallpox.

This entry was posted on Sunday, January 27th, 2019 at 5:23 pm and is filed under Latest News.

Literature Literature archive

Lee TH, McGlynn EA, Safran DG. 2019 JAMA 321(6):539–540. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.19186
MJ Bayefsky, LOGostin 2018 JAMA Pediatr. online Dec 28, 2018. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2018.4283
K I Hammanyero, S Bawa, F Braka, et al. 2018 BMC Public Health Vol 18 (Suppl 4) :1306 https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-018-6193-z

Videos Video archive

Key figures share their perspectives on a controversy that led to the suspension of Ebola vaccine clinical trials in Ghana.

Drs. Heidi Larson and Pauline Paterson of the Vaccine Confidence Project join episode 50 of the Public Health United podcast with Nina Martin, November 2017.

Drs. Larson and Paterson join a discussion on vaccine confidence at Hong Kong University.  September, 2015.

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