Routine vaccinations for children are key in reducing the number of deaths caused by measles. Since the anti-vax movement gained popularity, many are failing to vaccinate their children.
It's having an effect, as WHO’s Director of Immunization and Vaccines, Professor Katherine O’Brien, said in a press conference on February 14, claiming that the world is now ‘backsliding’ in its attempts to stop the spread of measles.
"Our data are showing that there is a substantial increase in measles cases. We’re seeing this in all regions, this is not an isolated problem. A measles outbreak anywhere is a measles problem everywhere.
"Viruses and other germs don’t have passports, they don’t care about geographic borders… They are agnostic to our political and geographical environments."
There's another aspect to this, too - with fewer than 10 per cent of measles cases being reported, the real figure is supposedly ‘in the millions’ and will never be known.
Measles deaths worldwide fell by 80 per cent between 2000 and 2017 – all thanks to vaccination programs – but this progress is now being slowly reversed. With approximately 136,000 worldwide deaths as a result of measles last year alone, O’Brien was clear that there are serious health threats to not vaccinating.
Professor O’Brien spoke on the misinformation that the movement has spread over recent years, and the effect that it is having on our health:
"The level of misinformation – the world that we live in now – is causing threats to that success in many parts of the world. There has been an enormous bout of misinformation that has caused damage to the measles effort."
Recently, there have been a number of significant measles outbreaks across the world, including Ukraine, Sierra Leone, the US, and western Europe. Although the anti-vax movement may not be the only factor, with more than double the number of measles cases last year, it’s clear that the failure to vaccinate is having a detrimental impact on people’s health.