The anti-vaccination trend has landed next to HIV and Ebola as a key global threat, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Experts say “vaccine hesitancy” risks reversing progress in fighting preventable diseases.
Although various diseases that can be prevented by vaccines, such as diphtheria and meningitis, were on WHO’s health threat lists before, in 2019 the organization included “vaccine hesitancy.” Among other top 10 threats are HIV/AIDS, the global influenza pandemic, along with the spread of the deadly Ebola virus and Dengue fever, as well as air pollution, lack of primary care and noncommunicable diseases like diabetes.
Vaccination remains one of the most “cost-effective” ways to avoid infection, WHO stated, and refusing it directly threatens to cancel out the progress made in fighting preventable diseases.
The WHO listed “complacency” and “lack of confidence” among the key reasons why people reject vaccines. Anti-vaxxers usually say they fear the side effects, in particular the possibility of developing autism, although some cite conspiracy theories about big pharma and governments.
This attitude has already contributed to the recent measles outbreak, which has gone up 30 percent globally, WHO said. The organization earlier reported that measles outbreaks due to “gaps in vaccination coverage” killed 110,000 people in 2017. Experts are alarmed to see the disease spreading, even in nations that until recently were on the verge of completely eliminating it.
Nadezhda Yuminova of the Moscow-based Vaccine and Serum Research Institute told RT that the anti-vaccination movement “may be relatively small but leads to very serious consequences.”
Yuminova said the activity of its campaigners, especially when amplified by the media, can wipe out the earlier “tremendous successes” of fighting highly-contagious diseases in Europe. Rejection of vaccination can not only lead to death, but deliver a blow to the “collective immunity” of people in the area. Doctors say that individuals whose health does not allow them to be vaccinated rely on “collective immunity” for their protection from diseases.
Katrine Habersaat, form WHO’s Vaccine-prevented Diseases and Immunization programme, warned about the dangers of spreading “anti-vaccination misinformation.”