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“I’ll Never Agree on Vaccines.” More Parents in Kazakhstan Refuse Vaccination

Kazakhstan sees annual increase in the number of those opposing children’s vaccination. In 2010 health workers registered as little as 300 cases of refusals, in 2018 this number increased almost up to 15 thousand. The majority of refusals have been registered in the city of Almaty, Aktobe, Karaganda and West Kazakhstan oblasts.


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Temirsyn Telman (not his real first name and surname), a young Muslim (Semei):

— When I have my own children, I’ll never agree on vaccines despite what doctors and theologians say. I totally distrust the global and state medicine. I think children should rather undergo the survival of the fittest.

First, vaccines may be of poor quality. Second, I think a new-born baby has more vital power and energy without vaccination.  Also, I think that vaccines are likely to contain the cells of animals that are prohibited to be killed, as the Muslims say.

A family in Islam is strictly private. No one may interfere in a Muslim family, neither the state, nor anyone else. And a child in the family is a pure hope for a better future. And when this hope is vaccinated with the things you don’t understand by those whom you don’t trust, it causes your natural rejection.

See also: “It’s My Child, I’ll Do Whatever I Want.” Why Uzbekistanis Refuse Vaccination

The believers don’t say about it because they don’t want any troubles from the authorities. Now picture this, the Muslim women take family seriously, they understand it all. And the Sharia law contains encouraging laws and notes, which say that the far-sightedness of a woman should be encouraged by the ummah (note – community) and husband.

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However, these figures do not reflect the situation in the country completely. According to the chief expert of the Public Health Committee, Ministry of Health of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Nurshai Azimbayeva, often people don’t admit they refuse for religious reasons, saying instead “for personal grounds”. Therefore, in fact, their share may be over 50-60 per cent.
Asylbek Izbairov, acting professor of the department of religious studies of the Eurasian National University:

Islam doesn’t prohibit vaccination. Not a single hadith or ayah contains prohibition of vaccination. When people explain their refusal is based on their belief, it’s wrong. Their unwillingness must be explained by another factor: today we can see various consequences of vaccination, when some children become disabled. This is a natural protection by parents.

Ekaterina Aliyeva, journalist (Almaty):

Ekaterina Aliyeva. Photo from personal archive

— I’ve decided to refuse vaccination before my child was born. I’ve seen my friends with children, who are almost my son’s peers. The majority of them have been vaccinated, but some have refused.

My son was vaccinated only at the maternity home, i.e. only three standard vaccines, which were administered without permission. He has taken them well, but he’s got no more other vaccines.

I am well aware of the number of consequences, side effects, and how our doctors treat and store vaccines carelessly. I have heard many news reports about children who were vaccinated in improper conditions, how children’s health was not monitored. This caused permanent consequences: children remained disabled for life.

Doctors administer vaccines, shrug their shoulders and leave, and parents have to take care of their disabled child for life.

I’ve seen many cases when children were vaccinated and then they had speech problems. For example, a child who already starts speaking stops at their speech development. It has been witnessed many times in Kazakhstan, particularly in Almaty.

See also: A Vaccine of Discord, or Why Parents in Kyrgyzstan Refuse Vaccination

Health professionals treat the refusal badly. They always try to make me agree, pester me, blame me, and I regularly listen to their blatant speeches. As far as I know, they have to make reports or they are paid for every vaccine administered, so health workers put heavy pressure on people.

Here, the whole system puts pressure; everyone is demanding that a child be vaccinated.

I am not sure that my child will ever come down with such diseases that cannot be cured and that can be prevented with a vaccine. Moreover, such vaccines are administered in such doubtful conditions.

In 2017, 40 cases of whooping cough were registered in Kazakhstan. Over 50 per cent of cases were children whose parents refused vaccination. 67 per cent of cases of tetanus and 40 per cent of measles were unvaccinated children. Now health workers report the measles outbreak in the country. Over 750 cases have been registered, including many young children.

However, my opinion has slowly begun to change now, I am taking vaccination more easily now. The child has become stronger, more mature, now I might agree to vaccination. But so far it is not possible because of high temperature, teeth, or something else. There are always moments that do not allow for vaccination.

Basically, I’m not against vaccination now, but anyway, if I am to vaccinate my child, I’ll do it in the private medical centre, which will be legally responsible for the consequences.

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Most often, adverse side effects have been reported in Kazakhstan after the BCG vaccine (against tuberculosis), 52 out of 55 cases in 2016. Also, epilepsy and post-injection abscesses after pentavalent vaccine, paroxysmal syndrome after hexavaccine, and allergic reaction cases have been reported.
Nurshai Azimbayeva, expert of the ministry of health:

Once we switched to the Japan-made BCG vaccine, the number of post-immunisation adverse side effects in the form of lymphadenitis tends to decrease. All children develop immunity against this infection in response to BCG vaccine. Some children develop immunity in the form of node enlargement, which is an expected reaction and doesn’t lead to disease.
Nurshai Azimbayeva. Photo: nmo.kz
Last May, parents of a 5-month-old girl received 200 thousand tenge (nearly 530 US dollars) in a court action against the doctors of the perinatal centre of Karaganda oblast. It was a compensation for material expenses caused by treatment of post-vaccine complications. After the vaccination, the child developed complications, axillary lymph nodes became enlarged and the child had to undergo the immediate surgery under general anaesthesia.

Medical workers as well as psychologists raise awareness of the Kazakh people on the need and safety of vaccination. Doctors report cases of citizens who earlier refused vaccination and come and get vaccinated afterwards.


This article was prepared as part of the Giving Voice, Driving Change – from the Borderland to the Steppes Project implemented with the financial support of the Foreign Ministry of Norway. The opinions expressed in the article do not reflect the position of the editorial or donor.

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