SEATTLE — With quick modes of transportation in the modern world able to quickly transmit diseases, global health has become a major concern. As the need for vaccines arises, so does the need to understand why people abroad refuse them.
Part of the United Nation’s Millenium Development and Sustainable Development Goals include the improvement of global health in the world’s poor regions.
Although current vaccination rates have exceeded the expectations of the United Nations, there still remain several regions that require immunization but have not done so yet.
To further immunize the human population, there needs to be an understanding of vaccine hesitancy. By understanding the fears of certain population groups, vaccines can be used in more effective measures.
Countries that have had a history of colonialism and apartheid are most likely to have a hesitancy toward vaccine usage. One such instance is Nigeria during the beginning of the Millennium Development Goals.
Government officials were encouraged to immunize their people and given a shipment of vaccines. Among the Nigerian people a rumor spread that the vaccinations were actually sterilization shots.
Instead of putting a stop to it, the Nigerian government further fueled the rumors. Even when the vaccinations were shown not to have anything to endanger human health, the rumors persisted among the Nigerian population and government, all out of a fear of “Western plots.”
One of the contributing factors to the spread of Ebola in Africa was due to the distrust of governmental policies. Past governmental corruption created a fear that contracting Ebola meant being sent to a hospital in order to die, not get better.
Thus, Africans would often hide Ebola-stricken family members in order to provide care. The same has rung true for vaccines, especially in places where there are many marginalized groups who have not been treated fairly by the government.
Another issue preventing the success of the new Sustainable Development Goals are prejudices toward different ethnic groups.
One such instance is Eastern Europe with its large Roma population. Several different Roma groups have been able to become educated about vaccinations and the positives it brings to human health.
What has prevented the Roma from receiving vaccinations are negative attitudes toward “gypsies.” Roma have complained about going to clinics and being refused health services due to their Roma heritage. Other Roma have decided not to bother at all with the system despite knowing that vaccines are advantageous to health.
Religious conservative Christian groups have decided not to participate in vaccination programs. Instead, they have opted for letting illnesses run their normal course. As immunization programs worldwide are only done on a voluntary basis, deeply religious Christians have the right to decline vaccines.
Another issue has also been experienced with deeply conservative Muslims. Several vaccines contain a small percentage of pig material to preserve the vaccine and make it more efficient. Since the Quran forbids the consumption of pork, religious Muslims opt out of the vaccine program, just like their Christian counterparts.
Vaccine hesitancy and refusal is an issue that affects everyone. As long as people are not vaccinated, there remains the chances of diseases spreading and even mutating.
If health organizations aim to immunize more people, there should also be a deeper understanding on why certain people refuse to participate. By doing so, appropriate information can be gathered to further convince people of the importance of vaccinations.