Vaccination is one of the most cost-effective and successful public health interventions in the history of mankind. Anecdotal evidence, the media, and South African-based anti-vaccination websites and blogs point to the existence of anti-vaccination lobbies in South Africa, although the part played by these lobbies in sub-optimal vaccination coverage is unknown at present. This article discusses some of the claims made by South African anti-vaccination groups, including some drawn from anti-vaccination lobbyists based in highly resourced countries. While research is underway to better understand the scope and influence of anti-vaccine groups, it is important to build capacity among healthcare workers within the Expanded Programme on Immunisation of South Africa to enable them to deal empathically and effectively with parents and caregivers who have been exposed to anti-vaccination messages and who question the need to vaccinate their children. Claims that vaccines cause adverse effects need to be supported by valid and reliable scientific evidence. However, evidence alone that vaccines are safe and effective does not always result in parents being convinced to vaccinate their children. In addition to providing important evidence of vaccine safety, this paper discusses the important role of communication - especially dialogue - in building public trust in vaccination with the ultimate goal of increasing vaccination coverage and preventing future outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases.
- South Africa