With 2.3 million children not vaccinated against measles last year, Governments need to do more to increase public awareness of the vaccine’s importance. Comment.

Published: December 13, 2019

In 2018, measles resulted in an estimated 10 million cases and 1,42,000 deaths globally. There has been a spike in numbers since 2016 which highlights the need to increase public awareness of vaccine’s importance and focus on reducing vaccine hesitancy. Globally -the numbers have shot up from 1,32,000 reported measles cases in 2016 to over 3,53,000 in 2018.

While the numbers had doubled in 2018 than the previous year, the numbers in 2019 have surpassed those of 2018. Over 4,00,000 cases were reported globally by Mid-November 2019. 

The WHO and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention have resorted to estimate the number of measles cases and deaths, as the surveillance of measles is generally weak. An estimation model records nearly 10 million cases and over 1,42,000 measles deaths in 2018.

The most affected nations in 2018 include the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Liberia, Madagascar, Somalia, and Ukraine which account for 45% of all reported cases. In Ukraine the situation is grim with a sharp increase in reported cases. 

The staggering spread in cases globally is a result of vaccine hesitancy and the World Health Organization (WHO) in a report held that Vaccine hesitancy is among the top 10 threats to global health in 2019. The organization defines Vaccine hesitancy as a delay in acceptance or refusal of vaccines despite the availability of vaccination services.

Why is a Vaccine hesitancy?

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo) is plagued with factors which include low institutional trust, misinformation, shortage of vaccine and frequent attacks on health-care centres and workers resulting in the spread of both measles and Ebola.

In Philippines the risk associated with the newly approved vaccine has lowered the public trust resulting in low coverage and spread of measles and polio outbreaks.Fear-mongering has led to a fall in vaccination, leading outbreak of the disease. Many European countries and the US see vaccine hesitancy on the basis of religious grounds and campaigns spreading fake news about vaccine safety. 

Countering hesitancy – 

Certain European Countries have introduced laws making vaccination mandatory. New York city also introduced a law when the US lost its measles elimination status. However, such laws maybe counterproductive in the long run and the only way to improve the numbers is to increase vaccine uptake by educating the public. 

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