As many as 92 per cent of Poles are in favour of vaccination and only 4 per cent believe it is not advisable, a study by the Infection Prophylaxis Institute Foundation has found. Nonetheless, anti-vaccination movements have been gaining in popularity.
Even though studies show that the obligatory vaccination of children enjoys the highest acceptance rates, each year sees another 3 thousand children not vaccinated.
What scares the parents off?
Vaccination is connected with being put at a real risk, believes Oliwia Brochocka-Zagumny, a mother of two.
"I have let my daughter undergo obligatory and pneumococcal vaccinations. At the time, I didn't associate any illnesses occuring in the meantime with vaccines. But one day I heard the name of one vaccine given to my daughter mentioned on a TV debate as having the highest aluminium and mercury-derivatives content. Young children are especially sensitive to these subtances as they might develop some serious dysfunctions in their nervous and immune systems. Since that time I have been looking for information on my own," she says.
Oliwia gave birth to her second child in Greece.
"After his birth I ensured that my son doesn't get vaccinated against anything. Local doctors were surprised to see me asking this already in the first days of his life. I didn't have my son vaccinated against TB, and he was only vaccinated against jaundice after about 6 weeks. I refused any additional vaccination," Oliwia adds.
In her opinion the toxic substances contained in vaccines are like time bombs.
"And 5-in-1 combination vaccines are 'a real challenge for a bomb-disposal expert'. What's more, the more vaccines are contained in a single shot, the more difficult it is to prove which of them has caused a side effect," she continues.
What do doctors say to that?
You need not be afraid of vaccination, convinces Prof. Ewa Bernatowska from the Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Immunology Clinic at the Children’s Memorial Health Institute in Warsaw, and WHO expert.
"The vaccines approved for distribution have been tested and safe. I haven't heard of any case where vaccination would seriously contribute to deteriorating anyone's health. No permanent body damage ever occurs," she adds.
She further stresses that vaccines, as any other drug, can cause adverse post-vaccination reactions. Any such case is carefully analysed.
Vaccines have been introduced to prevent dangerous infectious diseases, the expert reminds.
"Currently, diseases such as polio, which caused many deaths well in the 1940's, have been eradicated. Thanks to meticulous vaccination, they no longer occur," she underlines.
She further reminds that before the era of vaccines against measles, this disease would kill nearly 100 children a year in Poland alone. "In France, where many parents opt out of vaccinations, we can speak of an epidemics of measles," Prof. Bernatowska points out.
She also argues that the argument often put forward by anti-vaccine movements, suggesting that the MMR vaccine (against measles, mumps and rubella) allegedly caused autism, has been refuted. Andrew Wakefield, the author of this theory, was proven to be a fraud.
"Nevertheless, anti-vaxxers have been holding on to this theory and have continued to popularise the idea that premature vaccination with combo vaccines leads to autistic disorders," she says.
She also points out that the opponents of vaccination often come from environmentalist circles. She warns, however, that a healthy lifestyle cannot protect children against infectious diseases.