It was with deep concern and not without some amount of embarrassment that I read the news of how in many Northern parts of Kerala - and yes, my own hometown too figures in that list - parents were refusing to give their children the MMR vaccines. As per the state health minister Shylaja Teacher, only around 58% of the children have been given their doses as of the cut-off date, forcing them to extend the deadline.

It would seem absurd that in 2017, we are still discussing whether to give vaccines even after so many decades of viewing its success across the world. And yet, the lobby to brainwash people and play to their inner insecurities has been doing an increasingly stellar job in seeding fear into the minds of the gullible and unsure, undoing decades of work by health care workers and scientists.

Stop listening to idiots and get your children vaccinated

They have given half a dozen theories and reasons as to why no parent should consider giving the vaccine to their children. I want to deal with these myths circulating around against vaccinations.

Vaccinations are part of a USA / Zionist agenda to sterilize Muslim women and lower life-expectancy.

This story has been circulating for a decade and more now, invariably by conservative minds and alternative health practitioners. The simple fact is that there is zero evidence to back this theory. Except for playing to your inner fears, it is nothing more.
The vaccines are not changed based on religion and are given to every child who comes to a hospital to get them. The stories circulating in Kerala are far-fetched enough to suggest that Bill Gates (they actually accuse him directly) has amassed all his infinite dollars from Microsoft with the sole agenda of making women in Kerala infertile. All I can say is it takes a very fertile imagination to cook up such stories. And sadly, a real fear within to believe them.
But evidence? None, in two decades of rumour-mongering.

There is so much being said both for and against vaccination. So for now, I choose not to give my child the vaccine.

This dialogue makes my blood boil. In essence - You're electively choosing to let your child surely get a disease because you aren't sure of the efficacy of vaccines in spite of a 99% drop in incidence of the disease after vaccination and zero proven studies suggesting vaccines affect fertility or cause autism (I will discuss the infamous Wakefield study shortly).
What is worse - you are harming children around you as well.

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Diseases will come whether you get vaccinated or not. So why take vaccinations?

Diseases may surely come but NOT THESE DISEASES. Try to understand. We are lucky to have vaccines for these diseases. When the majority of a population is immunized, the chance of an outbreak of these diseases is nil. Whereas, AS IS CLEARLY SEEN LAST YEAR, when there were deaths due to diphtheria in Kerala, the disease rises again when the area is not immunized. So don't kill your child because of apathy.

Children have died after vaccination.

As far as I have checked, I have not found an incident of a spurious batch of vaccines that caused mass deaths in India. To say one or two children had an adverse reaction to a vaccine, I (and any sane doctor) will surely agree with you. It is entirely possible to have such reactions to any drug which is also why it is best to be given by a doctor who can identify and treat an allergic reaction.
But for this 0.001% incidence, to put your child at 99.99% risk of getting measles or rubella is insane. You have a greater chance of getting hit by a falling coconut while walking down a Kerala street.

Vaccinations cause autism.

No, it does not. Extensive studies have been done across the world to test this claim and it is clearly proven that there is no link between vaccination and autism.

What happened before vaccines were there for diseases like measles, rubella etc?

Before there were vaccines, nearly everyone would get infected by diseases like measles. Of this, hundreds died every year based on their immunity. A rubella outbreak in 1964-65 infected 12.5 million Americans, caused 11,000 miscarriages and killed 2000 babies. In comparison, from 2012 till today, only 15 cases of rubella have ever been detected in USA.

The reason why ONLY 2 LAKH Indians die every year of Tuberculosis instead of 2 crore is because we have received a strong starter-pack immunity from it due to vaccination. You may have the tuberculosis bacilli in you right now as you read this (1 in 3 Indians do) but because of that vaccination you got when you were small, you neither are sick nor contagious.

So why vaccinate for a disease that is almost gone?

This is important so please try to understand. A person who is not vaccinated can still carry the disease and spread it- he is still contagious. Whereas a vaccinated child cannot spread that disease as his body already knows to defend itself against this. The more vaccinated people you are surrounded by, the lesser chance of you being infected.

Image courtesy: CDC - How vaccines protect you
Blue: non vaccinated, healthy
Yellow: Vaccinated, healthy
Red: Non-vaccinated, contagious

This matters because there is a very vulnerable period after birth till the infant gets vaccinated at around 12 months. The child has no defenses against measles or rubella during this period and is at great risk if surrounded by plenty of people and children who have not been vaccinated too. Vaccines don't just defend your child. They help defend a class, a family, a community. They help isolate the disease further and further until hopefully a generation from now, we can totally eradicate the diseases. We have done it already with small pox and are so close with polio.

Is this Anti-vaxxers phenomena localized to this pocket of Kerala?

Unfortunately not. There may be kilometers and kilometers between Washington DC and Miami beach but thanks to social media, ignorance is linked from America to Alapuzha. There is one physician behind it all, a Mr Andrew Wakefield, whose fake article in 1998 is the root cause of the myths we suffer today. And it is affecting children from skeptical communities not just in North Kerala but across the world. Between 2001-2015 (after Wakefield's article was published), 1789 cases of measles were detected in USA, a dramatic increase from the past. Of this, nearly 70% were found to be unvaccinated.

Who is Andrew Wakefield?

In 1998, physician Andrew Wakefield published a study suggesting that the MMR vaccine caused developmental disorders in children. This received wide press and caused panic amongst parents across the world leading to a decline in immunization and subsequent increase in outbreaks.

So what was wrong with what he said? Just about everything.
Wakefield's study (now retracted as you can see here) had a insanely small number of patients (12), was an uncontrolled study and absolutely speculative. His methods were inappropriate, giving money to children at his son's birthday party and taking their blood without consent and there was no medical review board to monitor the conditions.
Oh yes, I forgot two other things - he forgot to inform the medical board that he was being paid $55,000 to advise lawyers on how to showcase that vaccines harmed children AND he forgot to disclose that he had filed a patent for a vaccine of his own TO COMPETE with the MMR vaccine.

Multiple subsequent studies found no link as suggested by Wakefield. Soon, 10 of his 12 co-authors backed off from the article, accepting there was no real link established and implying that the results were deliberately falsified by Wakefield. Wakefield was found guilty of serious medical misconduct and lost his medical license. But the damage has been done - children across the world still die today because of the misconceptions fed two decades ago by an unscrupulous doctor. To quote directly from a journal review, 'the Wakefield fraud is likely to go down as one of the most serious frauds in medical history.'

Why parents of vaccinated kids need to be more active in this debate

The conversation is invariably between health workers and anti-vaxxers/ parents who are skeptical. I put forward that this needs to change. Parents who have immunized their children need to step up and join this conversation, supporting healthcare workers. This directly affects your children, after all.

Surrounded by children who are not immunized, they are likely to be vulnerable during an outbreak if their own immunity is weak during that period (and in today's world - a strong immunity should never be taken for granted.) And that would be the unkindest cut of them all, would it not - you doing everything by the book and getting all the vaccines taken but then watching your child unable to breathe and end up dying in an ICU because the others in the neighbourhood decided that this was an evil scheme by Bill and Melinda Gates who earned billions worldwide and then decided to target Malappuram, of all places, in the world.

You want me to be controversial?

'You want ABC-caste free localities. You want XYZ-religion free neighbourhoods. No non-vegetarian communities.' Let us be absolutely clear. All the above three are purely based on prejudices in your mind. Smelling fish being cooked will not kill a vegetarian. An Albert or Abdullah living beside a Shankaran Nambhoothiri will not harm your family's belief in God. But having 20 un-vaccinated children living alongside your vaccinated child guarantees that your child is at a huge risk of getting infected with a disease that can kill him or her.

I'll gladly be controversial if it will force you to come out and take a stand (heaven knows I've done it before and sparked an international debate) -

  • If I were living in such a community, I would ask my children to stay away from those who are not vaccinated. 
  • I would bring it up at neighbourhood meetings and demand action be taken to evict the parents if they continue to deliberately put my child at risk of death because of their blind, unscientific beliefs.

In 2016, there were 2 deaths and 20 cases of diphtheria in Kerala - the most in the state EVER - once more in these same North Kerala areas, due to negative propaganda by Kerala's anti-vaxxers. Diphtheria, a disease for which there has been a vaccine for decades which has successfully helped reduce the burden by over 99% across the world.

Vaccination statistics in Kerala in 2017 

Come on, Kerala. Come on, World. Do not succumb to ignorance.
Stop listening to idiots and vaccinate your children.

Dealing with ALL THE ARGUMENTS against vaccinations,  including the Andrew Wakefield controversy and  why parents of vaccinated kids need to be more active in this debate


  1. I can't believe we are still debating the use of vaccines. I used to write about this in school and looks like we are back to square one. As you said, even the vaccinated child would be unsafe surrounded by unvaccinated kids. If the struggle is hard in Kerala which has the highest literacy rate, I can imagine how the statistics might look in other states.

    1. That is the problem. Other states will suffer worse versions of this for all the wrong reasons.

  2. When I chose to give the Pneumococcal vaccine to my daughter, I was told that the Dr has suggested this vaccine only to promote the Company and its Of no use . Also I heard claims that it might cause Autism. Thanks to your article , now I have no doubts. Good that I listened to the doctor and have given my daughter all the necessary vaccines.

    1. This autism story for vaccines has been going on for decades all because of the Wakefield scandal. People still push his articles even after it had been thoroughly proven wrong and false

  3. Best one you've put out in a while buddy!
    So much ignorance and fear has lead to this. T the wold is on the brink all depends on if we come together or if we allow these forces to prevail.

    1. This, ironically, is a bad scenario of fake news succeeding but noone points it out

  4. Vaccination is an interesting topic which we need to talk about.As yoiu correctly suggested parents of vaccinated children need to come forward.Much of the hoopla is often misinformation by people with vested interest.Unfortunate but the problem is very much a personal choice, having lonng term public consequences.Very well written.The question is who will bell the cat ?

    1. It cannot be about personal choices when a wrong choice can kill a child - not just one's own but someone else's child. That's why I am fighting for this.

  5. Off all the arguments given against vaccinating children, the funniest I found, from your post, was the scare around sterilizing Muslim women. I wasn't aware of how all this debate started in the world. This post is an eyeopener for me on many accounts.

    1. This is a real allegation... there are pamphlets distributed and people talk of it in public speeches. So damn annoying. Such people should be arrested.

  6. I read this yesterday and am still digesting it. I live in the United States, where the anti-vaxxers have caused (and yes, I say caused) measles epidemics in recent years. They endanger us all, but sadly, they sometimes cause the death of their own children. Keep up the good work, doctor.

    1. yes, sadly anti-vaxxers have indeed struck in USA too with recent outbreaks of measles and all being noted now. Sad because at one point, measles was close to being eradicated at least in USA

  7. It is unbelievable that in our country people pick up unbelievable reasons to go ahead with their selfish agendas. It is even more unbelievable that so many people fall for it and hamper essential healthcare.

    1. They do far greater damage than they are even aware of by spreading nonsense like this

  8. It is ridiculous that such a debate exists, still. How sad is that some false propaganda and misconceptions can threaten the lives of so many!!

    1. as you said, its ridiculous. at a time when we should be close to eradicating the disease from India, instead the disease is rising again in various pockets.

  9. It reminds of this section on the Last week tonight with John Oliver - 'How is this still a thing?'.

    I'm glad there are smart doctors like you spreading the message again and again. We really could use them.

    1. Wish it made an impact where it mattered... in the minds of those who are conflicted and on the fence

  10. Thanks Doc for this wonderful analysis. There are some people listening to idiots in Australia too, sadly

    1. please share this with them... its sad that we are letting diseases back in because of blind beliefs

  11. It's unbelievable to me that so many people I know adhere to these false beliefs. In the homeschool community (of which I'm a part), there is a huge following of the anti-vaxxers, and they refuse to believe valid contradictions to Wakefield's misinformation, citing that the medical profession is simply trying to protect its own interests by continuing to vaccinate. Please, people. There's a reason so many of these diseases were practically eradicated and are now on the resurgence.

    Great post!

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So what do you think ?