Vaccination saves lives, ignorance jeopardises them
Afghanistan, which together had 50 cases last year and have reported a case each in January, 2019.
Resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases led to the WHO to list “vaccine hesitancy” — the reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite availability and affordability – as one of the top 10 threats to global health in 2019, along with air pollution and climate change; non-communicable diseases like heart disease, diabetes and cancer; global influenza pandemic; antimicrobial resistance; and infectious diseases.
India’s public health gains accrued from polio eradication are being whittled away by the uninformed resistance to measles-rubella vaccine, which is given in two doses to children aged 9 months to 15 years. Parents are leading the charge in many states, including in Delhi, where they stalled the campaign by moving the high court, which issued an order saying parental consent was a must before vaccinating children.
MR vaccination coverage ranges from a high 100% in Himachal, Arunachal and Telangana, to at least 95% in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Goa, Andhra, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Odisha, 87.62% in Maharastra. The campaign is currently running in Bihar (37.58% coverage till Feb 6) and Madhya Pradesh (51.04%), and is scheduled for July in Rajasthan and August in Sikkim. The MR vaccine is safe and has saved more than 21 million lives since 2000, according to WHO.
Vaccine denial, however, has led to a 30% spike in cases worldwide since 2016, taking the cases to 6.7 million and deaths to 110,000 in 2017. Measles is highly contagious and causes death and debilitating complications, including encephalitis (swelling of the brain membranes), severe diarrhoea, pneumonia, ear infections and permanent vision loss.
In 2019, the WHO plans to ramp up coverage of HPV (human papillomavirus) to eliminate cervical cancer, which is the second leading cancer in women after breast cancer.
HPV vaccination ran into controversy in India during the national and state governments’ community “demonstration project” to vaccinate 10-14 year old girls in Khammam district in Andhra Pradesh and Vadodara district in Gujarat, with the project being stopped in 2010 after rumours linked vaccination to deaths of girls.
With fake news spreading within minutes on social media, public health professionals have the additional task of debunking emotionallycharged falsehoods.
With lives at stake, winning the communications battle against rumours is imperative, we must all do our bit to fight falsehood with facts.
Vaccination prevents 2-3 million deaths worldwide each year.