Legend has it…: Panel aims to debunk the myth of harmful vaccines

Published: February 15, 2014
Dr Omer provided concrete statistical data to negate the theories about vaccines causing more harm than good to children. PHOTO: FILE

Dr Omer provided concrete statistical data to negate the theories about vaccines causing more harm than good to children. PHOTO: FILE


Pakistan has the highest global burden of childhood diseases and mortality and therefore, needs to utilise all the tools available to combat them, especially the most effective one — vaccines.

These views were shared by Emory University associate professor of global health, epidemiology and paediatrics Dr Saad B Omer, while he was speaking at a panel discussion at the Aga Khan University (AKU), along with Pakistan Paediatric Association president Dr Iqbal Memon and AKU paediatrics and child health department chairperson Prof Dr Anita Zaidi.

Dr Omer provided concrete statistical data to negate the theories about vaccines causing more harm than good to children.

The discussion was on ‘Myths and Vaccines’ where frequently asked questions and common myths were discussed by the panel. Though vaccines are an effective way to combat disease and reduce child mortality rate, certain members of the general public are still reluctant to adopt them. The panel aimed to disprove the myths around vaccines and to spread awareness that the use of vaccines would help the most vulnerable members of our society, the children.

The myths

The first myth to be tackled was that polio vaccine causes infertility, which was disproved immediately by a simple statement by Dr Memon, who revealed that since the introduction of the vaccine in 1994, the population of Pakistan has increased by 100 million. If vaccines were to render patients infertile, the population would certainly not have grown so dramatically, he argued.

A fact that the panel kept repeating was that these vaccines, including those for polio, are commonly used in other Muslim countries as well, most notably in Saudi Arabia. “We need the public, the media and other doctors to spread awareness to people so that they are able to make informed decisions,” said Dr Zaidi.

“Someone, somewhere is perpetuating these myths and is looking to cause mass hysteria,” claimed Dr Memon. “That person doesn’t want our children to beat these diseases. We need to wake up the people.”

Dr Omer then talked about the negative side effects of vaccines. “All biomedical interventions have side effects but most are mild and temporary,” he explained. “There are a few severe side effects but they are so exceedingly rare that they do not even come into consideration.”

Another myth the panellists dispelled was that vaccine-preventable illnesses are just an unfortunate fact of life and that it is better to be immunised by contracting the disease rather than through vaccines. “There are complications that come with these diseases and they have much more severe and long-lasting consequences than if the child is immunised,” claimed Dr Memon.

Dr Zaidi, agreeing with Dr Memon, said that people are unaware of the dangers of these diseases and stressed that they are potentially fatal illnesses that can also cause lifelong side effects.

Another myth discussed during the session was that drug companies make huge profits from vaccines.

This was countered by the panel explaining that pharmaceutical companies make minimal profits from the production of vaccines because their aim is to eradicate the disease rather than fight it in the long term. “Part of the millennium goals is to reduce child mortality by two-thirds and an effective and efficient way to do that is via vaccines,” explained Dr Zaidi.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 15th, 2014.

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Reader Comments (5)

  • joejoe
    Feb 15, 2014 - 7:30PM

    You have your work cut out for you first off we are the most vaccinated yet have the highest infant death rate among industrialized nations, the vaccine court VICP has paid out billions for vaccine devastation to children, it is now ‘Common’ knowledge that vaccines cause autism and other neurological disorders with over 160 independent studies showing the relationship, you will have a very difficult time differentiating between the now 1 in 6 disability rates in the US and vaccine injury, to an increasing number they are both equal to vaccines.


  • Feb 16, 2014 - 12:51AM

    Doesn’t this article strike you as sort of weird? Pakistan has a huge number of people living in desperate poverty. That isn’t mentioned as a factor in infant and child mortality, however. The problem is described as though the only thing standing between Pakistan and perfect health is fear of vaccines.


  • Karim Khan
    Feb 16, 2014 - 2:05AM

    The biggest myth around vaccines is that vaccines are safe and effective. Hundreds of valid scientific studies published in scientific/medical journals have proved that vaccination is both ineffective and risky in terms of health. The infertility of polio vaccine is a myth but it’s a scientifically confirmed fact that Sabin vaccine which is orally administered can cause permanent paralysis – clinically indistinguishable from wild polio – and it actually has caused polio in thousands of children, including the infamous 2007 parlaysis outbreak in Nigeria. What accountability was held of WHO for leaving those 300 plus kids permanently disabled? Quacks like Dr. Omer become WHO’s mouthpiece due to their ow vested interests. But in America Sabin vaccine was banned (or as they term it “discontinued) in 1999 due to its high risk of viral mutation and paralysis. But Pakistan’s pharma-sponsored media and dollar-harvesting administration would never investigate the cases of permanent paralysis caused by oral polio vaccine. I hope this comment makes it on this post.


  • joejoe
    Feb 16, 2014 - 6:21PM

    Surprise, Surprise, another Big Pharma vaccine scam exposed and under investigation to increase profits while poisoning those that remain gullible with any vaccine possible, this time it is the 2009 bird flu that they keep pushing, in the BMJ they are investigating the WHO and its emergency advisory committee, for perpetuating the HYPE of an non existent pandemic. Anyone that buys into these scare tactics and gets any flu shots at all is only risking their own health and putting it in jeopardy.


  • Karim Khan
    Feb 18, 2014 - 11:19AM

    JoeJoe, you are very right. I am based in US and most of American friends don’t get vaccinated for flu – and I am talking about well-read, well-educated people from across the US. Reasons? Because they have noticed that getting a flu shot has more often than not resulted in causing flu – and usually worse flu than they had when they chose not to take the flu shots. Few of my American friends vaccinate; instead eating healthy and staying away from stress are the most natural and safest ways to immunize yourself against any disease. I am currently doing my research paper for school on health risks of polio vaccination and will publish the final draft after the end of the term. Meanwhile I highly recommend a new book called “Dissolving Illusions” by Dr. Suzanne Humphries and Roman Bystrianyk (2013). It is a great source of information and reveals the truth about immunization claims via hundreds of published studies as well as original hospital/medical data (which is something the layman usually has no access to). I just got my copy of the book and I will be interviewing the authors about their research as well. In sum, pharma industry – like other institutions – is a deadly snare for humanity. And only through critically educating ourselves about its disasters can we keep ourselves and our children safe fro its claws.


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