This year, we face a bold new problem, as one of the biggest threats to humankind could be humanity itself.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) released a list of global health challenges in 2019, and on top of that list is the reluctance or downright refusal to vaccinate as one of the top ten greatest health challenges of 2019.
The problem, which is known as “vaccine hesitancy”, is a complex issue, which can stem from a several different roadblocks, including complacency about health care, inconvenience in accessing vaccines and the lack of trust in the efficacy and nature of vaccines themselves.
However, unlike many of the other public health threats added to this list – which includes but is not limited to air pollution, climate change and antibiotic resistance – this particular health threat has a clear and effective solution. The main challenge is convincing people of the facts.
Despite the overwhelming sea of scientific evidence available which prove beyond doubt that vaccines are both safe and effective, the rate of vaccination has fallen short of the acceptable levels, and a dangerously growing number of people continue to hold scary and false beliefs about what vaccines actually achieve.
These beliefs held by the population is not without reason or cause, some of the lingering sense of mistrust for vaccine could be attributed to negative past media coverage like the MMR-autism debacle.
It would seem that once humans have an opinion about something, no matter how scientifically accurate, it is extremely difficult for us to break past those preconceived notions.
“The reasons for this rise [in vaccine hesitancy] are complex, and not all of these cases are due to vaccine hesitancy,” the report acknowledges.
Already, the effect of this rise in vaccine hesitancy is being felt worldwide, and it now threatens to reverse many years of progress in eradicating what are entirely preventable and, at times, life-threatening diseases.
Since the year 2000, the measles vaccine has saved over 20 million lives, and decreased the global death toll by more than 75 percent in just 17 years. Now, we are closer than ever to the finish line, and for some reason, we have started running in the opposite direction.
A 2018 survey of vaccine trust in America, found that the trust in vaccines has now slipped to dangerous levels. But by no means is this growing sense of skepticism confined to the US alone.
In 2017 alone, reports showed a 30 percent increase in measles cases worldwide, even though this contagious disease is easily preventable through two doses of a vaccine.
The resurgence of measles and other preventable diseases is a serious concern, and it’s one that WHO and its partners are determined to tackle in 2019.
“Health workers, especially those in communities, remain the most trusted advisor and influencer of vaccination decisions, and they must be supported to provide trusted, credible information on vaccines,” the report reads.
Today, vaccines prevent two to three million deaths a year, but if global coverage was improved, a further 1.5 million people could have their lives saved each year.
One of the only things holding us back is ourselves.
Tags: Measles, Vaccines, WHO
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