An increase of vaccine-preventable diseases has been seen across the nation recently due to parents refusing to vaccinate their children. In fact, it is so bad that the World Health Organization has identified vaccine hesitancy as one of the global health threats for 2019.
According to WHO, vaccine hesitancy – the reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite the availability of vaccines – threatens to reverse progress made in tackling vaccine-preventable diseases. Vaccination is one of the most cost-effective ways of avoiding disease – it currently prevents 2-3 million deaths a year, according to WHO.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of unvaccinated children has quadrupled since 2001 and more than 100,000 American infants and toddlers have received no vaccines at all. As a result, a spike in measles, mumps, pertussis and many other diseases has been seen.
Measles, for example, has seen a 30 percent increase in cases globally. Some countries who were close to eliminating the disease have seen a resurgence, WHO said. Right now, places like New York City and Washington state are dealing with a measles outbreak and officials are urging citizens to get vaccinated.
WHO said the reasons why people choose not to vaccinate are complex; a vaccines advisory group to WHO identified complacency, inconvenience in accessing vaccines, and lack of confidence as key reasons underlying hesitancy. Healthcare 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, WHO said.
So, how do we combat vaccine hesitancy? We have to work to inform each other of the truth, as provided to us by healthcare workers. Already, some states have eliminated nonmedical exemptions for mandatory vaccinations.
We have to push for tougher policies for vaccination requirements or face the sobering reality that we will soon be dealing with once-abolished diseases on a regular basis.