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Thursday, November 7, 2019

Underimmunization Global Crisis

In The Politics of Autism, I look at the discredited notion that vaccines cause autismTwitterFacebook, and other social media platforms have helped spread this dangerous myth.   Measles can kill.

Lawrence O. Gostin and colleagues have an article at The Lancet Infectious Diseases titled "The Public Health Crisis of Underimmunisation: a Global Plan of Action."

The summary:
Vaccination is one of public health's greatest achievements, responsible for saving billions of lives. Yet, 20% of children worldwide are not fully protected, leading to 1·5 million child deaths annually from vaccine-preventable diseases. Millions more people have severe disabling illnesses, cancers, and disabilities stemming from underimmunisation. Reasons for falling vaccination rates globally include low public trust in vaccines, constraints on affordability or access, and insufficient governmental vaccine investments. Consequently, an emerging crisis in vaccine hesitancy ranges from hyperlocal to national and worldwide. Outbreaks often originate in small, insular communities with low immunisation rates. Local outbreaks can spread rapidly, however, transcending borders. Following an assessment of underlying determinants of low vaccination rates, we offer an action based on scientific evidence, ethics, and human rights that spans multiple governments, organisations, disciplines, and sectors.
From the article:
Even a casual search of the internet and social media shows ubiquitous misinformation about vaccines. Robocalls and automated bots amplify false and misleading messages. Anti-vaccine messages often purport to come from reliable scientific sources or genuine anecdotes of children harmed. Internet searches fail to distinguish between authoritative sources and messages intended to mislead. Social media platforms (eg, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube) can rapidly spread false or misleading information, ranging from disproven beliefs that vaccines cause autism to unfounded fears about spacing multiple vaccines during infancy. Organised, funded entities and celebrity anti-vaxxers can be especially influential among adolescents and worried parents trying to navigate divergent messaging.16 Although over a dozen high-quality studies17,18 have found no link between measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR), thimerosal, and autism, public misperceptions stubbornly persist following the 1998 publication of the discredited Wakefield study.19 Almost any vaccine can be the target of false information campaigns. In 2013, social media messaging featured young Japanese girls reportedly harmed by the human papillomavirus vaccine.20 False messaging dampens public acceptance despite the evidence concluding that universal human papillomavirus vaccination could almost eliminate cervical cancers.

 The government’s highest ethical duty is to safeguard the public’s health through evidence-based policies. Yet, government officials can sometimes discourage or undermine public trust in immunisations. In 2011, the US Central Intelligence Agency orchestrated a fake vaccination campaign in Pakistan to obtain DNA from the family of Al-Qaeda fugitive Osama bin Laden, leading to popular conspiracy theories that place vaccine workers at risk. In France, Marine Le Pen’s National Rally Party voiced concerns regarding vaccine safety. In April 2018, Pakistani politicians tweeted false information to discredit polio vaccines. US President Donald Trump hassent mixed messages regarding vaccine policies. He intimated, in 2016, that childhood vaccines cause autism, but later encouraged Americans to secure measles vaccinations to prevent outbreaks. His administration’s policy to deny influenza vaccines to people unlawfully crossing US borders threatens the health of migrants and US residents alike.22