Against the rise of 30% in measles cases worldwide in 2018, the World Health Organization, included ‘vaccine hesitancy’ as one of the 10 threats to global health this year.
The overarching threat of vaccine hesitancy, which is defined as the “reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite the availability of vaccines”, only appears to have grown more dangerous to public health.
Ground realities with measles:
In 2018 a surge in measles cases, have risen to around 3,65,000 measles cases reported from 182 countries in the first six months of 2019.
Africa: Highest rise of 900% in the for first six months this year compared to last year, with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Madagascar and Nigeria accounting for most cases.
Europe: Sharp increase is also visible with 90,000 cases recorded in the first six months, more than the numbers recorded for the whole of 2018. Last month the U.K., Greece, the Czech Republic and Albania lost their measles elimination status.
Reasons for rise in measles cases:
Large number of younger people (18-34 years) and those with less education are less likely to agree that the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine is safe. According to report on vaccine confidence among the European Union member states.
Only 52% respondents from 28 EU member states agree that vaccines are definitely effective in preventing diseases, while 33% felt they were probably effective. According to report
The 48% of the respondents believed that vaccines cause serious side effects
The 38% think vaccines actually cause the disease that they are supposed to protect against.
In case of India:
Low awareness to be the main reason why 45% of children missed different vaccinations in 121 Indian districts that have higher rates of unimmunised children.
While 24% did not get vaccinated due to apprehension about adverse effects, 11% were reluctant to get immunised for reasons other than fear of adverse effects.
What needs to be done:
Much work remains to be done to address misinformation.
Social media playing a crucial role in spreading vaccine disinformation needs to be tackled.
The commitment by Facebook to “reduce distribution” of vaccine misinformation will be helpful in winning the war against vaccine deniers.
Plan for its elimination
Measles vaccine not only provides lifelong protection against the virus but also reduces mortality from other childhood infections.
Under the Global Vaccine Action Plan, measles and rubella are targeted for elimination in five WHO Regions by 2020.
WHO is the lead technical agency responsible for coordination of immunization and surveillance activities supporting all countries to achieve this goal.
It is a highly contagious viral disease. It remains an important cause of death among young children globally, despite the availability of a safe and effective vaccine.
The measles viruses kill immune cells, leaving the child vulnerable to infectious diseases for two to three years.