Author: Tarannum Rehal
Interview with Theertana Sivakumar Umadevi
Vaccinations are commonly used and are encouraged when it comes to healthcare. Vaccines are prepared from a weakened form of a virus consisting of its toxins and one of its surface proteins to help induce immunity to infectious diseases.
As vaccines are carefully tested, they have been proven to be effective against infectious diseases such as polio, measles, smallpox, and rubella to name a few. Due to the devastating effects of some illnesses and disease outbreaks in the past, certain vaccinations are required, or at least highly suggested by medical professionals, at the time of a child’s birth and throughout life. However, the existence of vaccines does not come without debate as there are people that believe vaccines are foreign substances that should not be entering our bodies as they could potentially disrupt our natural biology with the ideology that natural immunity is better than vaccine-acquired immunity. Some also believe that vaccines could backfire and end up infecting them with the disease that they are supposed to prevent.
Theertana Sivakumar Umadevi, a 3rd-year Chemistry student with a specialization in premedical studies, agrees that vaccinations are (and should continue to be) a fundamental component in healthcare systems worldwide. Every human being should be able to feel safe in their environment, which includes the right to protect their health through affordable and adequate healthcare. Many factors, however, can contribute to one’s willingness to get vaccinated such as religion, culture, tradition, level of education, and socioeconomic status.
According to the World Health Organization, childhood vaccination prevents 2 million deaths worldwide each year, which is “overwhelmingly good” as per the scientific community. However, each year there are roughly 2.5 million global deaths due to diseases that would have been otherwise preventable through vaccines. It is a global effort to increase vaccination coverage and vaccination exposure, particularly in developing countries.
Many of these countries are in Africa and Asia, including Botswana, Rwanda, Congo, Kenya, Mozambique, Somalia, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and Zimbabwe. Developing countries often lack the funds and infrastructure to improve educational institutions and healthcare facilities. This is a huge reason why these countries are usually hit first and the hardest with disease outbreaks. Although there tends to be a misconception about developing countries being more “traditional” in their beliefs, it’s been found that those citizens are actually eager to seek adequate treatment. On the other hand, developed countries in North America and Europe such as Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom tend to have a lot more debate on the validity of vaccinations and we have several people, known as anti-vaxxers, that are completely opposed to vaccines. Now the question arises, why does this debate even exist in developed countries? As a Canadian citizen, it’s not like we lack the proper education to understand why vaccines are not only important but also effective. It’s not like our socioeconomic status here necessarily hinders our ability to get vaccinated either.
In my interview with Theertana, she mentioned a good point as to why this discrepancy might exist. In developing countries, people don’t reserve the right to express their views and beliefs as freely as those of us do in first-world countries. Those with lower socioeconomic status also don’t view vaccines as a luxury, but instead as a basic requirement for survival as they have experienced life and witnessed the effects of infectious diseases firsthand. To some degree, those of us living in more progressive countries tend to take the healthcare we have for granted without understanding the more devastating effects of being ill with certain diseases. Even in the light of COVID-19, a global pandemic, where millions worldwide have suffered and lost loved ones to this deadly virus, there are individuals that believe this virus is a hoax and are blatantly against preventative measures. As the research for a vaccine continues, there is an evident divide between people who will choose to get vaccinated and those who will refrain.
Ultimately, although socioeconomic status can influence one’s readiness to get vaccinated, or any healthcare treatment at all for that matter, it comes down to one’s own personal beliefs. People in developing countries typically tend to be more open-minded to vaccinations, even if they are more “traditional” in their other beliefs compared to Western society.
Thank you Theertana for taking the time to share your knowledge and opinions on this topic of vaccines.
Andre, F. E., Booy, R., Bock, H. L., Clemens, J., Schmitt, H. J., Santosham, M., . . . Datta, S. K. (2011, March 04). Vaccination greatly reduces disease, disability, death and inequity worldwide. Retrieved November 08, 2020, from https://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/86/2/07-040089/en/
Jheeta, M., & Maxwell, J. (2011, March 04). Childhood vaccination in Africa and Asia: The effects of parents' knowledge and attitudes. Retrieved November 06, 2020, from https://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/86/6/07-047159/en/
Sad enough that Americans who believe they're "above the vaccine" will endanger themselves and others due to a lack of proper knowledge. I wonder-- how can we close the education gap? Would anti-vax individuals be open to that?
Super interesting! I've always wondered why anti-vax theories flourish in developed countries and I think Theertana explains the discrepancy very well.
What I'm wondering is how much of anti-vax sentiment is "personal belief" from firsthand experience or research, and how much is "personal belief" from someone else's "trustworthy"(to them) opinion. Who started the anti-vax conspiracies, and why?