Why Do People in Kyrgyzstan Refuse Seasonal Vaccinations?

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In Kyrgyzstan more than 22,000 refusals of seasonal vaccinations were registered last year, according to the director of the Republican Center for Immunoprophylaxis, Gulbara Ishenapysova. She told journalists at a press conference that 40% of those who refuse doubt that vaccines against flu, measles and other seasonal diseases are of good quality — while almost half do not want to be vaccinated for religious reasons.

The Ministry of Health fears that an influx of infections from abroad could occur at any moment. For example, diphtheria cases are now being registered in Europe, and polio has not yet been defeated in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Doctors in Kyrgyzstan, said Ishenasypova, must be prepared for these diseases. Last year, nine children died of complications from measles in the Republic. Doctors emphasize that all of them had not been vaccinated.

Meanwhile, parents refusal to vaccinate their children is punishable. Unvaccinated children may not be admitted to kindergarten or school. Furthermore, an article enshrined in the constitution assigns criminal liability to parents who deliberately fail to seek medical help in cases where a disease harmed a child.

“In 2022, we lost a child to tetanus, and in 2023, we lost nine children to measles. If an unjustified refusal led to a fatal outcome, then it is intentional harm to the child’s health, and liability under the law is provided for,” the Republican Center for Immunoprophylaxis stressed.

The rate of refusal of seasonal vaccinations has decreased over the past five years. The Center cited statistics which indicate that the largest group to refuse vaccinations — those who do so for religious reasons — is decreasing. Seven or eight years ago, 78% of the total number to refuse did so on religious grounds; today, that figure is down to 48%.

“The Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Kyrgyzstan urges parents not to refuse vaccination for allegedly religious reasons. The question of benefits and harms of vaccination belongs to medicine. Therefore, in this situation, the decision on Shariah will be made taking into account the opinion of medicine. Islam is not against vaccinations if there is a conclusion from the Ministry of Health on the safety of the drug,” said the head of the information department of the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Kyrgyzstan.