Hyderabad: Vaccine hesitancy has become a global health threat and the World Medical Association is alarmed at preliminary reports from different parts of the world that show a 300 per cent increase in cases of measles in the first three months of 2019.
The preliminary data shows a drastic increase in the number of measles case compared to 2018, with major outbreaks in Congo, Ethiopia, Georgia, Madagascar, Myanmar, Philippines, Sudan, Thailand, US, and Tunisia.
Clusters of unvaccinated people have been found in the US, Thailand and Tunisia, which is also contributing to the fast spread of the disease.
Misconceptions about vaccination that have grown from the adverse effects experienced by a small number of the population, and which has not been tackled aggressively by public health officials, has led to this phenomenon, according to the World Medical Association’s initial assessment.
Religious philosophies, personal choice, and the misplaced belief that improved hygiene conditions do not cause disease have caused people to stay away from vaccination programmes.
Paediatrician Dr Hima Bindu Singh, says vaccines are important to provide immunity against the disease. “The immunity is 98 to 99 per cent in most cases and there can be a one per cent chance to get the disease. And even if that happens, the effect on the body is not very high. The complications of lifelong disability, brain damage, blindness or hearing loss or any other complication is avoided (with vaccination). Hence its main goal is to assist in saving life and the impact (of the vaccine) is not very severe."
With more people travelling globally, unvaccinated individuals are becoming carriers of the disease from one region to another. The schedule for children in other countries too is not followed and most places the vaccines are not in the government schedule for immunizations.
Measles was completely controlled till the year 2000. In 2014, the number of cases peaked, showing lapses in the system. In 2017, the World Health Organisation found that there were 1,10,000 deaths due to measles.
Dr Altaf Naseen says vaccines have proved effective in preventing measles and “hence it is important that confidence in them is maintained and for this reason, during mass vaccination drives, it is very important to monitor. Any adverse effect during that time is found to cause a major impact and it leads to negative thoughts about vaccines.”
WMA has stated that vaccines and immunisation are safe and effective and it is important to spread this message to people across all sections of society.
Vaccine development and administration have been the most significant intervention to eradicate infectious diseases and influence global health....