Measles outbreaks are happening around the world, and it’s only because parents aren’t getting their kids vaccinated
Many parents in the United States are concerned about what might happen as the anti-vax movement continues to grow through misinformation and lies – but there’s already really bad news from the United Nations (UN) and World Health Organization (WHO): ‘vaccine hesitancy’ around the world has already caused the number of measles cases to double over the last 12 months, with nearly 230,000 cases reported around the world in 2018.
According to the report, there were 229,068 reported cases of measles in 2018, and some countries haven’t turned in their data yet (they have until April to do so). Last year, there were only 115,117 cases reported at the same point in the reporting process, with a final number of 173,330 – and experts believe, with late-in-the-year outbreaks, 2018’s numbers will be double that.
Of the 173,330 measles cases reported in 2017, an estimated 110,000 people died, mostly children.
The reason for the dramatic increase in measles cases and deaths is very simple: parents aren’t getting their kids vaccinated. They fear rumors that the vaccines cause issues like autism, seizures, heavy metal poisoning, or death, even though studies continue to debunk these myths.
Dr. Katherine O’Brien, Director of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals at the WHO, explained that measles are highly contagious – someone with the virus can cough in a room, and hours later someone walking into that room could catch it. It’s also extremely harmful, causing long-term respiratory problems, hearing problems, immune system issues, and death. In other words: outbreaks can happen really easily — and can do a lot of permanent damage.
On the other hand, the disease is super easily preventable with two shots, which are 97 percent effective.
This Opinion Video, created in the style of School House Rock, tells the story of Measles, an infections disease trapped inside a test tube at the C.D.C., and her adventures to break free. pic.twitter.com/bboxPMXtPO
— New York Times Opinion (@nytopinion) March 11, 2019
But, according to Bloomberg, whose editorial board wrote about the importance of the vaccine this week, about 95 percent of a population has to be vaccinated in order to prevent outbreaks. That leaves little room for anti-vax pet theories after you consider that infants and those with certain medical issues can’t get the shots.
In addition to a frightening outbreak in Washington State, there have been recent notable outbreaks in the Ukraine, the Philippines, Japan, and Madagascar. But even across the entire globe, reported cases are skyrocketing.
The most frustrating part is that we have the solution and can stop kids from dying.
“It’s up to the countries to implement vaccination programs,” Dr. Katrina Kretsinger, another WHO official, said. “Some have made it mandatory for children to be vaccinated in order to attend school.”
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) March 8, 2019
It seems like as these outbreaks continue, the best option might be for lawmakers to take vaccinations into their own hands, and away from parents who read unverified “facts” on Facebook. Already, some states are taking steps to either require measles vaccines for kids without a medical reason to abstain, or at the very least releasing immunization rates for public schools.
The other option? Letting outbreaks happen, and having families become pro-vaccine the hard way. In British Columbia, for example, vaccine rates almost tripled after an outbreak scared sense into the populous – although the region still doesn’t have a high enough vaccination rate to maintain herd immunity.
It seems incredibly stupid that we have to relearn the lesson that the measles is an extremely tenacious, dangerous, deadly disease that killed over 2 million people every year. Or that the vaccine has lowered those death rates by 84 percent, at least up until 2016, and that it can and should continue to save lives. If only parents made sure their kids were protected.