Alarmed by the growing anti-vaccination sentiment among parents in recent years, Turkey’s Health Ministry has taken action to reverse this potentially dangerous trend, the Hürriyet Daily News reported.
The number of families that have refused to have their children vaccinated increased to 23,000 last year from 11,000 in 2016.
Earlier this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) also voiced concern about the increasing anti-vaccination movement in Turkey.
The organization said it has seen a growing number of groups misleading the public about the effects of vaccines, leading them to worry that the trend could shake their trust in vaccinations.
The country’s Health Ministry has set up the special website, asi.saglik.gov.tr, to inform the public about vaccines and to fight misrepresentations.
On the website the ministry said vaccinations are the most effective and affordable public health service.
It warned that if vaccinations are not received, up to 14,000 children could die each year from preventable diseases. The ministry also said parents can have their children vaccinated against 13 types of diseases, including mumps, diphtheria, whooping cough, polio, meningitis and German measles, at public health clinics free of charge.
The ministry also assured the public that vaccines do not include any pork products.
Consuming pork or pork products is forbidden for Muslims.
The website in addition provides a fact-check sheet about vaccines. It says rumors that vaccines cause Alzheimer’s disease or autism or that vaccines contain hazardous elements are unfounded. The ministry also said thanks to vaccines many fatal diseases have been prevented and that millions of children have been protected against the risks of disability and death.
In December of last year, the Health Ministry issued a statement and assured the public that vaccines used in Turkey were “extremely safe” and that they underwent very “stringent controls.”