According to the World Health Organization, the number of measles cases in the world has quadrupled in the first quarter of 2019. They also said that this is “a clear trend”, as all regions around the globe have seen an uptick in measles outbreaks.
According to the BBC:
The UN says the disease is “entirely preventable” with the right vaccines, but global coverage of the first immunisation stage has “stalled” at 85%, “still short of the 95% needed to prevent outbreaks”.
In an opinion piece for CNN, WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and UNICEF head Henrietta Fore said the world was “in the middle of a measles crisis” and that “the proliferation of confusing and contradictory information” about vaccines was partly to blame.
The BBC went on to point out that there are two likely factors in play here. The first is poverty, as poorer regions of the world are far more likely to have lower vaccination rates. (You can help alleviate this issue by donating to organizations like Unicef.)
But as the BBC noted, the numbers might be much, much higher than this:
It is worth noting these figures are provisional, the WHO says the true figures will be much higher. And that measles is far from harmless. It kills around 100,000 people, mostly children, every year.
But, of course, the second factor is “misinformation.” In other words, anti-vaxxers.
As I’ve said before, the internet has removed any barriers to information (in countries who have open access to the internet, at least). At no other time in the history of the world have we had better access to information. But with the good information comes the bad information as well. And the onset of social media has transformed how we consume information.
Instead of the random person shouting nonsense on a street corner (which everyone can easily ignore/walk by), social media has given everyone an even playing field. It’s also allowed these people to gather together, exchange notes, and become further entrenched in their beliefs.
This is why I encourage anyone anywhere to always engage people who are spreading misinformation, especially when that misinformation has a direct impact on the lives of children and those who are unable to be vaccinated because they do not have a normal, healthy immune system.
And when you do, remember the goal is to change the minds of the people reading, but not commenting. You’re not likely to change the mind of the person you’re disagreeing with. Your impact could literally save someone’s life.
Cover image via Shutterstock