Earlier this week, the World Health Organisation published a list of ten of the biggest threats to global health in 2019. Included on the list alongside diseases like ebola and influenza, noncommunicable diseases like diabetes, and environmental factors like air pollution, was “vaccine hesitancy”, a nice way of saying “anti-vaxxers”.
In the words of the World Health Organisation, “vaccine hesitancy – the reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite the availability of vaccines – threatens to reverse progress made in tackling vaccine-preventable diseases.”
According to the WHO, “vaccination is one of the most cost-effective ways of avoiding disease – it currently prevents 2-3 million deaths a year, and a further 1.5 million could be avoided if global coverage of vaccinations improved.”
According to people who are afraid of scientists and rely on websites like ‘Natural Mama’s Truth Den’ and ‘The Illuminati Is Real And Using Big Pharma To Poison You’, vaccines can cause autism and other vaccine injuries, and there’s a big conspiracy to cover up the facts and force vaccines on everyone.
Hm. I wonder who I believe?
The WHO points out that measles has seen a 30% increase in cases worldwide, which isn’t surprising given the number of stories from this month alone about people with measles travelling around Australia, spreading their germs. How generous of them. Does it come with a gift receipt? Because I’d like to return it, if possible.
While anti-vaxxers see not vaccinating themselves or their children as a personal choice, the reality is that our choices don’t exist in a vacuum, unless you live in a cabin in the woods in complete isolation from society.
Herd immunity is needed to minimise the likelihood of infectious diseases taking hold in a community, and people who can’t get vaccinated, like babies and the immunocompromised, rely on it to protect them.
Not vaccinating is an inherently selfish choice with serious consequences, and if you’re a well-educated, well-off person living in Australia, there’s no excuse for not vaccinating yourself or your children.
On the bright side, the WHO notes that 2019 might be the year that the transmission of wild poliovirus is stopped in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Less than 30 cases were reported across the two countries in 2018, so it looks like they’re on track to stop the disease from spreading soon. Yay for vaccinations!