Southern Africa's 4% of anti-vaccers can cause astronomical damage - researcher

Experts have warned that the growing public mistrust of vaccines means the world is moving backwards in the battle against deadly yet preventable infectious diseases.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says vaccine 'hesitancy' is one of the top 10 threats to global health.

The Wellcome Trust has just released a global survey covering over 140 countries which shows a lack of faith in vaccination in many regions.

82% of people in South and Southern Africa agree that vaccines are safe, while 80% agree they are effective. On whether vaccines are important for children, the figure goes up to 92%.

4% of respondents disagreed.

On Upfront, John Maytham standing in for Refilwe Moloto, discusses these figures with Kyara Bergstrom, head of research at the Netcare Breast Care Centre of Excellence.

Read: Getting a flu vaccine for winter could save a few rands

Bergstrom points out that vaccination is not only to protect the people getting vaccinated, but also those around them who are not candidates for vaccination.

She says she does experience resistance to vaccination for example against the flu virus, from family members of cancer patients for reasons which she says are not valid.

Often we hear, no it will make me sick... The flu vaccine we have available in South Africa is an inactivated virus so it's not a live vaccine, so it can't make you sick unless you've got other pre-existing conditions that you should check with your doctor.

Kyara Bergstrom, Head of research - Netcare Breast Care Centre of Excellence

It protects the people around you that are unable to have vaccines.

Kyara Bergstrom, Head of research - Netcare Breast Care Centre of Excellence

Bergstrom says the 4% the survey recorded as being anti-vaccination in Southern Africa, can have a huge impact on the health of the population as a whole.

It only takes one child to infect many others. That 4% can cause astronomical damage if we had a severe outbreak of measles.

Kyara Bergstrom, Head of research - Netcare Breast Care Centre of Excellence

The vaccine is not only about you. The vaccine is about people who don't have the option to vaccinate - your geriatric patients, anyone who is immune compromised whether it is cancer or organ transplant patients, they don't have the choice to vaccinate...children... They rely on others to be vaccinated to protect them.

Kyara Bergstrom, Head of research - Netcare Breast Care Centre of Excellence

We have a vaccination to protect our daughters from cervical cancer - why wouldn't you want to vaccinate your daughter and protect her from that when cervical cancer is the leading cause of death in women?

Kyara Bergstrom, Head of research - Netcare Breast Care Centre of Excellence

If you want to do your own research, Bergstrom recommends using the academic website https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/.

For more of this important conversation, listen below:


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