New Zealand “blood gang” violence blames on mandatory vaccination policy

Written by Nada Hijab, CNN New Zealand is like many other Western countries where doctors, hospital staff and military personnel have an obligation to go vaccinate young people. In New Zealand, it’s a mandatory…

New Zealand "blood gang" violence blames on mandatory vaccination policy

Written by Nada Hijab, CNN

New Zealand is like many other Western countries where doctors, hospital staff and military personnel have an obligation to go vaccinate young people. In New Zealand, it’s a mandatory policy aimed at combating the effect of infectious diseases that pose a risk to healthy young people.

Though not immune to the ebbs and flows of measles, tuberculosis and other diseases, those coming from outside the country — such as tourists — are legally exempt from the policy.

“It is good for New Zealand not to have to worry about such an epidemic, but it’s a shame to face it every few years,” comments Michael Sin, chairman of the Health Research Council of New Zealand

Unfortunately, the effort is also associated with bloodshed, according to a new report . According to Phelim Kine of New Zealand think tank the Asia Pacific Foundation, New Zealand law, mandatory vaccination rates, and logistical challenges have led to a quiet but bloody wars within gangs known as thugs, or ‘bloods’ in the New Zealand acronym.

Meet the thugs

“If I were to put my finger in my cheek and poke it, I’d say 95 percent of the time when I use that phrase we’re using it in an English context,” says Kine, director of the Asia Pacific Foundation of New Zealand. “But in Fijian, Maori, Portuguese, Spanish and Mandarin, all the other Pacific languages — it’s also a very traditional term to describe these fearsome gangs that are thriving in cities and towns around New Zealand,” he adds.

“These thugs are responsible for murdering hundreds of people since New Zealand took control of the territories of Tonga, Tuvalu and Kiribati in the mid-90s,” reports New Zealand’s Today Online newspaper.

“The massacre [of seven police officers in 2006] was a watershed moment in the history of the gangs and the country. Events like that prompted this report,” says Sin.

Kine says that researchers are quick to distinguish gangs themselves from members of local “respectable” communities and agree that gun and drug use are on the rise in New Zealand.

Methods and attitudes

But while New Zealand has become an outlier with strict mandatory vaccination rates, which a 2013 study found to be 93 percent, other countries are adopting a different approach.

Taiwan has a mandatory vaccination policy that opponents say infringes on the individual right to be protected from a disease, but security researchers and researchers still feel that the higher vaccination rates are crucial for population health.

According to Terence Poon of Taipei’s Global Media Institute, cases of measles have jumped by 300 percent since 2004. One new study suggests that people’s resistance to vaccines has a great deal to do with internal biases.

“Even people who have this type of desire to be vaccinated, are not always sure how vaccinations are done, or about the safety,” says Poon. “Not even only are they not sure about the safety of vaccines, they are also either confused, confused or told to keep their ignorant views to themselves.

“In a similar study, when people were asked to imagine a day in the life of a vaccine-preventable disease, they turned out to be even more unaware of the disease they had in mind,” he adds.

However, if the cold war between vaccination and resistance to vaccines continues in New Zealand, Kine sees a conundrum in how he expects families to react to the changes in the health of their children.

“As we were writing this report, I couldn’t help but wonder — what sort of social feedback are the parents of these kindergartners going to give this law because you have to show these signs on an electronic medical device when your child has to go for vaccinations?”

“Part of me feels like it’s going to become a full-blown subculture, and this is going to mean it’s going to be easier for rebellious groups to get the disease because they can identify who the ‘important people’ are in the community,” says Kine.

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