Wednesday 18 September 2013

Nigeria: A case for jail threats against those refusing vaccination

Protecting our shared community
I would hate to be in a society where vaccination is forced on people, but we need to understand the responsibility to be vaccinated if we are to participate healthily in our shared commonwealth, society and community.
The news is that 120 parents or guardians were arrested and threatened with jail terms if they continued to refuse to allow their wards be vaccinated. [Punch]
Polio or infantile paralysis, is an acute, viral, infectious disease spread from person to person, primarily via the faecal-oral route. [Wikipedia]
Herd immunity
It is preventable by immunisation or vaccination and recipients of this preventative measure block person-to-person transmission of wild poliovirus, thereby protecting both individual vaccine recipients and the wider community (so-called herd immunity).
The operative phrase here being herd immunity, the threshold in percentage terms a community population has to reach in vaccination numbers against preventable diseases to avoid an outbreak leading to a possible epidemic. [Wikipedia]
The chart above with regards to vaccinations against Diphtheria, Measles, Mumps, Pertussis (Whooping Cough), Polio, Rubella and Smallpox with the attendant modes of transmission implicitly confers a societal responsibility on everyone, first by not being a vector for transmission and avoiding that by being vaccinated.
With thresholds ranging from 80% of the population for Polio to 92% for Pertussis and Measles, it would be considered irresponsible for certain members of the public to shift the responsibility unto others by hoping the coverage of herd immunity when they interact with society assures their immunity if they have not yet been vaccinated.
Preventable means taking responsibility
More pertinently is the fact that in 2008, the WHO estimated that there were 1.5 million deaths amongst children under 5 due to preventable diseases. Preventable and avoidable possibly if those children had been vaccinated. [WHO]
Now, where there are no vaccines or a community has not had the opportunity to avail themselves of this life-saving activity, one’s sorrow and sympathy flows unabated as one also advocates for more vaccination drives to the unreached or deprived ends of the world.
Dread and death
However, where religious ignorance and rabble-rousing rhetoric of stupefying controversy as happened in Nigeria has bewitched the people into thinking the vaccination drive is to sterilise the population, then one wonders about the choices between needless childhood mortality or preserving maternal fertility creating a perpetual cycle of birth and death, joy and sorrow until indifference sets in.
That is not to say there is no cause for concern, vaccines are not perfect and as in the case of the Pfizer experiment in Northern Nigeria; what they did was unforgivable, the unethical conduct was reprehensible, and it set back the global vaccination drive that has left Nigeria as one of the only countries in the world with a polio problem, however, we cannot because of it stop the need to vaccinate and avoid preventable childhood deaths. [Wikipedia]
Just one and it spreads
Back to my premise for this blog, just because certain parents refused to take the MMR jab, in 2013, there was a measles outbreak in Wales, which affected 1,455 persons, 664 of those in Swansea and there was one reported death, in August 2013, there was a measles outbreak that found patient-zero in an evangelical mega-church in America.
The whole point I am trying to make is this, it is your prerogative not to get vaccinated, however, if you intend to share the same space as others, breathe the same air they breathe and interact with others as another social being, then that prerogative has to be subsumed to a greater good – you taking responsibility as much as others to be immunised or vaccinated and prevent unnecessary hardship, avoidable sorrow and needless deaths.
The choice is clear
It is in view of this that I support the jail threats made to the people arrested in Niger State of Nigeria, whilst it might be read as an encroachment on their rights, the wider responsibility is to society, with the desire to interact with the community comes a responsibility to help keep that community healthy and safe by attending to the smart obligation of being vaccinated.
Obviously, you can completely isolate yourself from civilisation, but then, hopefully you are too far away from any community to pose any risk at all, else, get vaccinated at the earliest opportunity.

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