The number of families refusing to vaccinate their children increased to 23,000 last year according to one expert at a symposium in Antalya, warning that once this number reaches 50,000, there is a serious risk of deadly epidemics among children.
The head of the Turkish Association of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, professor Alpay Azap, described vaccinations as one of the most incredible discoveries of humanity. "They are lifesavers. Every year, 2 million to 3 million people don't die thanks to vaccines," he said, adding if vaccinations spread to less developed regions of the world, this number could very well increase to 5 million.
The four-day symposium will focus on infectious and noninfectious diseases, vaccines, AIDS, tuberculosis and diabetes, and will allow experts to share their experiences.
Speaking there, Azap said the anti-vaccine movement has become a serious threat around the world. "The numbers of families who refuse to vaccinate their children increases every year. The number was 11,000 in 2016, and it increased to 213,000 last year."
He described the trend as a serious risk to society. "Thanks to vaccinations, childhood diseases like measles and whooping cough have been mostly forgotten. However, if families stop vaccinating their children, these diseases will return." He said the measles vaccine alone had saved the lives of around 20 million children in the last 15 years.
Azap said once the number of families rejecting vaccinations reached 50,000, a serious measles epidemic may ensue. "Reaching that number is not too hard. In 2011, the number of families rejecting vaccinations was 183. It increased to 980 in 2013 and 5,400 in 2015. In other words, if people continue talking nonsense about vaccinations, this number will definitely increase."
He said there were some who believed they have the right to refuse vaccinations for their children. "Unfortunately, this freedom has started to affect families who do vaccinate their children. "
No vaccination fully guarantees a child will not be infected, he noted. "Even the most effective vaccine, measles, protects a child 98 percent of the time. In 2017, there were 85 children who contracted measles in Turkey. Four of them had been vaccinated. In the first three months of this year, the number of measles cases reached 44, three of whom were vaccinated. In other words, vaccinated children are not safe anymore."
Children were safe from measles for the past 15 years, and the current trend has scared many experts, he said. "If there is an epidemic, we know that 100 out of every 1,000 infected children will be hospitalized. Out of them, 20 will die and another 30 will have permanent brain damage."
He said it was time people with no expertise stop talking about vaccinations or authorities make vaccination compulsory.