WHO Warns: Anti-Vaxxers are Bringing Measles Back

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned  that in 2017 there were 173,000 measles cases, a rise of 30 percent on 2016′s figures that is largely down to the anti-vaccine movement and the peddling of “fake news”.

These findings come as part of the WHO’s report “Progress Toward Regional Measles Elimination — Worldwide, 2000–2017“, which uses global data to create models and provide the most thorough and up-to-date view of how measles is spreading in the world today. While measles remains a problem in underprivileged economies with limited access to vaccinations, the most worrying change in measles rates has occurred in the West.

Across the Americas and Europe, as well as the Eastern Mediterranean Region, WHO has seen a surge in measles cases in recent years. Globally in 2017, measles caused approximately 110,000 deaths, and nearly all of those can be put down to holes in vaccine coverage. This is in stark contrast to 2017′s figures which were at around 90,000. The only region to see measles cases fall is the Western Pacific region.

What is perhaps most worrying about this rise is that the resurgences are occurring in many countries where measles cases should still be falling.

Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, Deputy Director General for Programmes, said in a press release, “Without urgent efforts to increase vaccination coverage and identify populations with unacceptable levels of under-, or unimmunized children, we risk losing decades of progress in protecting children and communities against this devastating, but entirely preventable disease.”

While we do not yet have figures for 2018, we do know that measles cases hit a high in Europe in the first half of 2018, with 41,000 people infected and 37 deaths up to the close of June.

Why is This Happening?

This is a big question, and there is no one simple answer. To understand it, we first have to know what measles actually is.

Measles is a highly contagious disease most often characterized by the appearance of a red, itchy rash and cold-like symptoms. However, at its most serious it can cause brain inflammation, permanent vision loss, life-threatening dehydration due to sickness and diarrhea, and more. The good news is, measles is easily preventable thanks to a highly effective, two-dose vaccine whose safety record has been proved time and time again.

Links between the combination MMR vaccine (which includes the measles vaccine) and autism have been perpetuated thanks to the disgraced doctor Andrew Wakefield. His now thoroughly debunked study created a significant panic among concerned parents. Wakefield’s claims of a link have been shown to be false and are believed to have been driven by undisclosed financial gain. The anti-vaccine movement, however, continues to link vaccines to a range of diseases and conditions, and Wakefield has become a star of that movement.

The MMR-autism non-link has now become one of the most heavily researched areas of vaccine safety, and study after study has demonstrated there is no connection.

We need not even go back to when measles was at its height in order to show the worth of the measles vaccine, either.

To give an easy reference point, in 2000 there were 500,000 measles-related deaths globally. That figure has been drastically reduced today, so it’s hard for many people to fathom that high rate of measles deaths. This is simply because we now live in a world where most people don’t think of measles as a serious illness. The disease hasn’t changed, we are simply protected from it.

In fact, the CDC estimated that the measles vaccine has saved more than 20 million lives globally. It’s also worth remembering that not everyone can have the measles vaccine, yet they are protected because so many other people are.

There are other factors that have driven the rise of measles in recent years, but the hyperconnectivity of our modern world, thanks to social media coupled with misinformation from anti-vaccine groups, is the major culprit in developed economy nations.

“The increase in measles cases is deeply concerning, but not surprising,” Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, said in a press release. “Complacency about the disease and the spread of falsehoods about the vaccine in Europe, a collapsing health system in Venezuela and pockets of fragility and low immunization coverage in Africa are combining to bring about a global resurgence of measles after years of progress. Existing strategies need to change: more effort needs to go into increasing routine immunization coverage and strengthening health systems. Otherwise we will continue chasing one outbreak after another.”

WHO is calling on improved national education campaigns, so the general public has a better understanding of vaccine science and safety, as well as renewing and increasing funding for national vaccination rollout.  Social media companies and billboard companies must also step up to stop the spread of misinformation on their platforms, particularly when it is manifestly costing people their health and, some, even their lives.

Take Action

The anti-vaccine movement is putting children at real risk. Join over 17,000 Care2 members telling billboard companies hosting “Learn The Risk” propaganda to stop facilitating the spread of lies that endanger our health. Sign and share the petition today.

If you want to make a difference on an issue you find deeply troubling, you too can create a Care2 petition, and use this handy guide to get started. You’ll find Care2’s vibrant community of activists ready to step up and help you.

 

Photo credit: Getty Images.

66 comments

Darlene Buckingham
Darlene Buckingham23 hours ago

Rhoberta: The truth is the MMR is a problematic vaccine. People have to make a full, informed decision about using this vaccine. The fact that you as a nurse claiming you know better than the public who are the ones that are making the decisions is arrogant and easily seen through by anyone reading the comments and this arrogance is exactly what the public who you call the "lay" people does not want to hear any more. There are problems with the allopathic method of dealing with communicable disease and long term chronic diseases and many are taking a more wholistic approach to the issue. Health first, rather than promoting vaccination as the answer. As many cannot take the vaccine there has to be other strategies for health. Basic building blocks of health are the most important rather than focusing on more and more vaccines. Saying that anti-vaxxers are bringing back measles is not true. It is more complicated than that and this is nothing but an advertising gimmick and fear mongering rather than providing information on how essential diet is to preventing and recovering from childhood diseases. You had measles as a child and are fine so to say that children are dying because they are not taking the MMR vaccine is not the whole story. Making sure that children have access to foods with vitamin C, A and D are essential for health. This has to be a focus as well as the food available is becoming more vitamin deficient. Many are realizing that allopathic medicine is not

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Rhoberta E
Rhoberta Eyesterday

BTW, Darlene,
This article is ABOUT immunization and not what to do IF measles is acquired.
"as a nurse" I find your condescending attitude misplaced AND coming from a lay person's POV

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Rhoberta E
Rhoberta Eyesterday

Darlene buckingam
I don't say the things YOU think I should because I'm more responsible than you AND a professional.
You regurgitate and correct members from a place you "read" on the internet..
Did you EVER think YOU may be giving misinformation ? Wait !! I KNOW you do !!
You made it personal and why would it NOT be obvious (of course not to you) that nutrition, environment, clean water AND immunization) would not be MY belief.too !!
Continue to push and try to make trouble Darlene. It's what you do. JUST like brian who is often wrong too

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Darlene Buckingham

I pointed out to Inez that vaccinated people can be an issue as newly vaccinated people can shed the virus so her information was not the WHOLE story. I did not say false information - I said that you provide partial information rather than the full information plus scaremongering. This is not enough to make an informed choice and consent as I pointed out in my comment below. As well you have had measles so you know very well that the majority of people do not die from measles and make a full recovery as you also know there are adverse effects to the MMR vaccine. This is a problematic vaccine, not all vaccines are equal so each and every vaccine has to be researched as well. Plus nutrition plays a huge role in prevention and recovery from communicable diseases so this is important information to those that are unable to take the vaccine. As a nurse one can only wonder why you are so adverse to talking about ALL the health aspects of vaccination, communicable diseases, prevention and recovery and when someone points this out your only answer is making it personal rather than discussing this important topic ? Why do you not as a nurse acknowledge the importance of nutrition for prevention and recovery from illness? Why do you not discuss the very real adverse effects of the MMR plus the fact that the MMR is not always effective so other health strategies are essential?

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Rhoberta E
Rhoberta E2 days ago

darlene Buckingham
Anyone with half a brain (and that apparently includes YOU) have just proved MY point.
C2 members CAN read and I certainly KNOW who is at risk to NOT be immunized. Inez also left a fairly comprehensive list for even YOU to try and understand.
Darlene and a couple of other members did their level best to get members suspended BECAUSE she did the trump thing. Turn it around and blame others.
As you don't have children of your own, just step children,, I suspect you weren't involved IN their immunization regime. (don't push me Darlene)
C2 members, please look up other vaccine articles on C2 and you WILL find Darlene implying that I give you false information. See for yourself and he Doctors and nurses she has done the same things to
JUST LIKE brian f

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Darlene B

https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/mmrv.html This is from the CDC and you will note there is a section on who should NOT take the MMR vaccine. You promote the MMR vaccine without all the facts. Again you have had measles yourself without complications. There are people that should not be taking the MMR vaccine. These people who cannot take the vaccine have the right to know that nutrition plays a role in preventing and recovering from the measles. You are spreading misinformation rather than the full information required to make an informed decision and give the best chance to those who cannot take the vaccine. The CDC knows that, but apparently you do not. You are a scaremonger saying that "it is YOUR child and babies are dying from measle" quote. Please recommend reading all the material on communicable diseases, determine if your child may be one that cannot take the MMR and then what the options are to prevent and help a child if they do catch measles as you did when you were a child. Adovcating for healthy nutrition and clean water plus good housing for all children will help save children's lives plus greatly improve the quality of life for children all around the world.

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Rhoberta E
Rhoberta E2 days ago

Darlene Buckingham
While you sing a chorus of "Kumbaya", 85,000 children in Yemen alone have died from starvation, war and disease. Do YOU have solutions for that?
Go to the CDC and actually look up stats for how effective Immunization is.
You're like brian f, same rhetoric but NO solutions.
Wouldn't it be a miracle IF there was NO war, poverty, NO starvation and clean water all over the world and NO diseases !!!
In Canada and the US we ARE better off but the risk of disease is ever present even WITH our way of life. PREVENTION in ANY way possible is the answer and IMMUNIZATION works as part of that.
I won't debate with you further because you think your way is right and as a health professional, I KNOW facts from suppositions.

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Darlene Buckingham

The concern should be that all children around the world have clean water, nutritious food and a clean place to live. That will go a long way for all children to live full and healthy lives. Advocating for a healthy environment for children all around the world should be first and foremost.

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Darlene Buckingham

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2015/07/02/measles-death-washington-state/29624385/ Note the woman who was the first death since 2003 died from other complications. As well Rhoberta you had measles as a child and you are still here without complications. The majority of deaths are in disadvantaged Countries and many of the deaths are due to lack of access to clean water and nutrition and other medical complications.

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Rhoberta E
Rhoberta E3 days ago

Darlene Buckingham
ONCE AGAIN , are you ONLY concerned about children and compromised people from industrialized nations ?
In this and age with world wide international travel there WILL be individuals who are carriers. I refuse o get into an intellectual tousle with you because we have been there before. You were misguided then just as you are now.
Please show your source for the information you gave to Inez just below.
From a reputable, recognized source

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