I was a member of a local prolific anti-vaccination group on Facebook many years ago. I joined because I was curious. I wanted to educate myself to the arguments from those of the other side. I joined because I needed to keep my conscious clear that I AM well-informed and that I’m not simply judgmental towards moms or parents who refuse vaccinations for their kids.
One of my old friend from college invited me into that group. Having been a member, I learnt a few things:
1) The adverse side effects of vaccinations or immunization (AEFI) are real. Some kids do experience bad reactions after being vaccinated. From the anecdotal experiences shared by the members, most of the effects are extreme cases of eczema and other skin-related diseases. However, there weren’t any shared experiences by members whose child became autistic after vaccination, other than hearsay from a distant relative or friend who aren’t in the group.
2) The group provides NUMEROUS links on reading materials, documents, journal articles and other publications that were all downloadable for the members to read and “get educated and informed”. The group also provides VERY strong emotional support for the affected members. So if you’re wondering why the antivaxxers are strongly opinionated (or stubborn), it’s because of that. They know they have their community behind their backs to support their choice, and quite worryingly, they REALLY think they are the only ones right and we are the clueless ones on the dark side.
3) The antivaxxers’ reasons to reject vaccines aren’t just religion-based “haram” etc, but their arguments include the controversial ingredients in vaccines (eg. mercury, aborted fetus cells etc. If you are worried, there are plenty of counter arguments against these claims as well. Just read them up) and also the effect of vaccines on neurological disorders (eg. autism, epilepsy, altered nerves system, brain swelling etc) and on the skin (eg. eczema). Antivaxxers also do not believe in herd immunity. Their rebuttal is vaccine shedding. Dr Google works for them, so yeah, anyone can read them up ;)..
4) Not all of the group members are actually anti-vaccination (or antivaxxers). Quite a lot of them are still on the fence and just there to learn new things. For me, it’s better to know what goes on the other side before we give our comments. But that’s just me 😊
5) Given points 1, 2 & 3 above, the antivaxxers can become extremely defensive whenever anyone -doctors or fence-sitting members question certain things. While I was there, whenever I gave even the slightest comment that sounded pro-vaccine (like, maybe it’s due to some other things? Maybe the sinus was hereditary?) I would get bombarded so bad by the rest that I felt like I was being attacked. That was the first thing that made me turned off by the so-called movement. You don’t need to be nasty to “disbelievers”. That is what happened to me. I may have shared my disagreements on the points raised by the antivaxxers on my private FB walls, and that friend who invited me in, who happened to be one of the admins, ousted me from the group. Not only that, she also unfriended me on Facebook. That is the level of paranoia and defensiveness these antivaxxers have. Speaking from my first-hand experience. smh.
From my short stay in the anti-vaccination group (it has since been disbanded), what I can say is this, bad things do happen to some children following vaccination. However, their number is very small. In other words, they are the minority. Statistically, such a small number isn’t significant enough to warrant a public outcry to ban vaccination or even reject compulsory immunisation. But when I mentioned these things, the typical angry parents would attack me with the usual “Tak jadi kat anak ko, ko boleh lah cakap.” and often proceed with praying that “I get what I deserve” (whatever that means?). What sorta mentality.. I can’t even begin to rationalise. They call themselves pious, abiding Muslims, ikut pemakanan sunnah, bertawakal sepenuhnya pada Allah SWT, yet when hear slight criticism, terus mendoakan anak orang lain sakit. Muslim yang bagus ke tu?
Never once did I belittle their plights. Indeed, it is very challenging and extremely tiring to take care of sick children, children who bleed because the itch is in their blood, who cry every night because they are in pain. BUT, I also believe, these parents were chosen by The Almighty. He knows they can face the challenges, hence, they are given this test. InsyaAllah, banyak pahala jaga anak2 yang tak sihat atau yang istimewa. The reward may not be in this world but certainly, reward awaits in the hereafter. Unlike us, parents with supposedly perfect and healthy children who did not suffer from AEFI. Our challenges may not be in that form, but there are plenty other avenues where He can test us. As they say, rezeki masing-masing, ujian pun masing-masing.
During my brief stay in the anti-vaccination group, I also remembered feeling depressed, paranoid and extremely edgy on a daily basis. It’s not surprising as I was constantly feeding myself with horrific images of sick children, reading sad and torterous experience from parents who willingly share their anecdotes in the comment sections or who upload their posts in the group. I don’t know.. In retrospect, I don’t think that is very healthy. If one keeps living in such a bubble, one might go insane. That was the second reason why I felt that the movement, their beliefs was not for me.
Since many are talking about this anti-vaccination issue, yet again, on social media, I feel that it is important to try to understand where these antivaxxers come from. Are they really victims of AEFI? Or are they just regular people jumping on the bandwagon because being anti-vaccination seem to be “more Islamic”..? Personally, while I do sympathise with the former, I am impartial towards the latter. Quite often, the latter make me feel bad about myself, for they argue that I am allowing so-called foreign substances to enter my kid’s bodies. They can be more paranoid and more judgmental than the first group. All I’m saying is, it IS possible to eat pemakanan sunnah as well as get vaccinated. Why must we choose one over the other? Don’t we want full coverage?
In the end, we are responsible for the choices we make. Do or do not, our children bear the consequences.
Antivaxxers may think they are doing themselves a favour, but look around, if old diseases that have virtually disappeared are making a comeback, if people are fighting/bickering/making riots either online or in the real world about this, perhaps you should just stay anti-vaccinated in the cupboard. Don’t try to influence others (the second group) who may not know what they are doing as this thing affects the rest of us. The majority.