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Editorial, Opinion Pieces Discuss Impacts Of Anti-Vaccine Movement On Global Health

Los Angeles Times: The anti-vaxx movement is a worldwide pandemic
Editorial Board

“…[I]n just the last few years there has been a 30 percent increase in measles worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. How has this disease that was once considered all but eliminated in the U.S. and other developed nations, surged back to life? According to international health officials, the same anti-vaccination fear-mongering that has been at work in the U.S is contributing to a decline in vaccination rates, and measles outbreaks around the world. … Not surprisingly, some of the declines have been in poor countries with limited access to health care. … But developed countries with strong health care systems have become measles hot spots as well. Last year, France and Italy had huge measles outbreaks that the World Health Organization says [were] driven not by lack of access to immunizations, but by a lack in trust in their efficacy. This distrust, called ‘vaccine hesitancy,’ is such a threat to public health that it is on the World Health Organization’s list of top 10 global health concerns for 2019. … Around the world, too many people seem to believe that vaccinations don’t really matter any more. Loose vaccination rules contribute to that sense. But those attitudes must change. Parents need to understand that vaccines save lives” (2/6).

The Conversation: Measles: Why it’s so deadly, and why vaccination is so vital
Paul Duprex, professor of microbiology and molecular genetics at the University of Pittsburgh

“…[F]orgetting the past has precipitated selective amnesia in our post-measles psyche. Ignoring scientific facts has tragically brought us to a place where some people fail to appreciate the values and utility of some of the most phenomenal tools we have created in our historical war on infectious disease. Unsubstantiated claims that vaccines like [measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR)] were associated with autism, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, etc., etc., and ill-informed celebrities have wreaked havoc with vaccination programs. Genuine, caring parents unaware of the realities of diseases they had never seen decided that since the viruses were gone from this part of the world shots were so last millennium. Put simply, some people have given up on vaccines. This has created the perfect storm. Since the measles virus is so infectious and Europe, Africa, South America, and South East Asia are not really that far away by jumbo jet, a case somewhere in the world can lead to an infection anywhere in the world. Failure to vaccinate large groups of people is helping measles come back. … Now we can only live in hope that the last death from this deadly disease in the U.S. remains from 2015. Unfortunately, that is not a given” (2/1).

Baltimore Sun: Have vaccines become victims of their success?
Susan Krenn, executive director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs

“…There are many factors at play: distrust in modern medicine and in government; fear of side effects; international travel, which brings diseases from one nation to another through the ease of an airplane flight; poor immunization infrastructure in lower- and middle-income countries; a misguided feeling that vaccines are worse than the diseases themselves. We must shift the narrative. We know parents want to help their children. Even as they reject immunizations, parents do so because they believe they are doing the right thing. Doctors need to take those concerns seriously, and carefully counter the misinformation and misperceptions that have led parents to this place without validating claims that have been debunked by science. The best response may be to lay out the facts about the harms of contracting a vaccine-preventable illness and explain that their child is susceptible, not to simply tell them they must vaccinate their kids. … [N]one of us can sit by and let those who oppose vaccines continue to make headway. There has been too much damage done already” (2/4).

Project Syndicate: Global Health Versus Online Trolls
Junaid Nabi, public health researcher at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School

“…In the United States, a recent study in the American Journal of Public Health reported how Twitter bots and Russian trolls have skewed the public debate on vaccine effectiveness. … The internet amplifies the damage caused by these ‘alternative facts,’ because it can disseminate them at massive scale and speed — a few fake or troll accounts are enough to spread misinformation to millions. … If we don’t take robust and coordinated steps to address this alarming trend, we may lose out on a century’s worth of successes in health communication and vaccination, both of which depend on public trust. We can take several steps to start reversing the damage. For starters, health officials and experts in both developed and developing countries need to understand how this online misinformation is eroding public trust in health programs. They also need to engage actively with global social media giants … In addition, social media companies can work with scientists to identify patterns and behaviors of spam accounts that try to disseminate false information on important public health issues. … The next battle for global health may be fought on the internet. And by acting quickly enough to defeat the trolls, we can prevent avoidable illnesses and deaths around the world” (2/1).