The Anti-vaccination Movement and Its Consequences
The modern anti-vaccination [anti-vax] movement is a loosely organized subculture that believes that vaccinations can lead to a variety of health problems including autism. Today there is overwhelming scientific evidence that vaccinations are safe and effective at addressing a variety of diseases which in the past claimed millions of lives, but which today are easily preventable, such as measles, smallpox, whooping cough, and rubella. [You can catch up with much of the most recent research here].
The modern anti-vaccine movement is often associated with Andrew Wakefield, a now disgraced British physician and medical researcher known for his fraudulent study alleging a link between the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine and autism. Wakefield's license to practice medicine was eventually revoked in the UK after other researchers found that he had substantial conflicts of interest and had falsified his data. But, unfortunately, the damage was done and the anti-vaccination movement was off and running, driven by social media and a variety of conspiracy theories centered around "big pharma" partnered with The Centers for Disease Control [CDC] in some sort of corrupt cabal. The Vaccination Information Network is a good example with some links to "infowars"...yes, that "infowars". And President Trump's embrace of the anti-vax movement added fuel to the fire.
As a consequence, vaccination rates are falling and the results are worrying. They include the Disneyland measles outbreak in 2015, a measles outbreak in Minnesota in 2017 and a record number of pediatric flu-related deaths of unvaccinated children during the 2017-2018 flu season. And, recently there have been additional outbreaks of infectious diseases that are closely tied to anti-vax communities.
Vox: "As of Monday, November 19, 24 people in the neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Borough Park in New York City were confirmed to have contracted measles, along with 75 people in nearby Rockland County, for a total of 99 cases. Additional cases are currently under investigation, and the number is expected to rise."
"What’s notable here is that all of the cases are occurring among unvaccinated or under-vaccinated Orthodox Jews, mainly children. When asked why people are opting out of vaccines, the city health department said anti-vaccine propagandists are distributing misinformation in the community."
Washington Post: "Chickenpox has taken hold of a school in North Carolina where many families claim religious exemption from vaccines."
"Cases of chickenpox have been multiplying at the Asheville Waldorf School, which serves children from nursery school to sixth grade in Asheville, N.C. About a dozen infections grew to 28 at the beginning of the month. By Friday, there were 36, the Asheville Citizen-Times reported."
And the World Health Organization is warning that the anti-vax movement has gained a foothold in Europe too.
Special Broadcasting Service, Australia: "Measles cases worldwide jumped more than 30 percent last year compared to 2016, with increases recorded in wealthy European countries like Germany where vaccination coverage has historically been high, the UN said Thursday."
"Martin Friede, WHO's director of immunisation, vaccines and biologicals told reporters that "supposed experts making accusations against the vaccine without any evidence" has had an impact on parents' decisions."
"He specifically cited medically baseless claims linking the measles vaccine to autism, which have been spread in part on social media by members of the so-called "anti-vax" movement."
A recent study published by The National Center for Biotechnology Information examined the history and impact of the anti-vax movement. It's conclusions should be a warning to policy-makers.
The Anti-vaccination Movement: A Regression in Modern Medicine [Azhar Hussain, Syed Ali, Madiha Ahmed, and Sheharyar Hussain] : "The rise of anti-vaccination movements in parts of the Western world poses a dire threat to people’s health and the collective herd immunity. People of all ages have fallen victim to recent outbreaks of measles, one of the most notable “eliminated” diseases that made a comeback as a direct consequence of not reaching the immunization threshold for MMR vaccines. These outbreaks not only put a strain on national healthcare systems but also cause fatal casualties. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that all stakeholders in the medical world - physicians, researchers, educators, and governments - unite to curb the influence of the anti-vaccination movement targeting parents. Research has shown that even parents favorable to vaccination can be confused by the ongoing debate, leading them to question their choices. Many parents lack basic knowledge of how vaccines work, as well as access to accurate information explaining the importance of the process. Furthermore, those with the greatest need for knowledge about vaccination seem most vulnerable to this information. Further, we must effectively combat the wrongful demonization of vaccinations through social media and news media platforms. A qualitative study that explored how parents respond to competing media messages about vaccine safety concluded that personal experiences, value systems, and level of trust in health professionals are essential to parental decision making about immunization. Therefore, to combat the anti-vaccination movement, there must be a strong emphasis on helping parents develop trust in health professionals and relevant authorities, educating them on the facts and figures, debunking the myths peddled by the anti-vaccination movements, and even introducing legislation that promotes vaccination, if not mandating it."
By: Don & Curated Content