Vac­ci­na­tion saves lives, ig­no­rance jeop­ar­dises them

Hindustan Times (Delhi) - - HTMETRO -

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.

GETTY IMAGES

Vac­ci­na­tion pre­vents 2-3 mil­lion deaths world­wide each year.

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