Mar 1, 2019

Measles is becoming a worldwide epidemic. It’s rising in the US—by the end of January there were already over a hundred of reported cases for this year. In Madagascar, there have been over 900 deaths attributed to the disease since September. Japan’s National Institute of Infectious Diseases also reported that they’re seeing the highest number of cases in ten years. Measles is highly infectious: It’s been described as “like dropping a match in a gas canister.” 

Which is weird, because measles is a “completely avoidable” disease, as lamented by US lawmaker Brett Guthrie at the US Congressional hearing. Backing him up, fellow lawmaker Frank Pallone pointed out, “This is a public health problem for which science has already provided a solution.” The solution? Vaccines. The problem is, more and more people are rejecting vaccines (a common debunked myth is that the MMR vaccine causes autism), and the anti-vaccine community is only exacerbated by social media.

The Philippines is experiencing its own measles outbreak. In 2017, there were less than 800 cases of measles. In 2018, the number surged by 547 percent with 5,120 reported cases. And from January to February this year alone, there have been 12,736 cases including 203 deaths.

Now, let’s be clear here. In the Philippines, the outbreak isn’t solely caused by the anti-vaxx community. We’re a third world country, and those who live in the margins do not have proper access to vaccines. Let’s not demonize those who have no means to be vaccinated. (Instead, you could help them gain access to it.)

However, the reason for the dramatic rise is something called vaccine hesitancy, the practice that the anti-vaxx community has perfected and promoted. Vaccine hesitancy is when someone is “reluctant or refuses to” be vaccinated even when there’s perfectly available vaccines presented to them. The World Health Organization listed this as one of the top threats against global health in 2019.

And to be perfectly fair, vaccine hesitancy didn’t come out of nowhere here. You can’t talk about the fear of vaccines here without mentioning the Dengvaxia incident. There wasn’t really any fear of vaccines in this country before the incident, but Dengvaxia changed all that. The case involved hundreds of thousands of school children being vaccinated without their parents’ consent with a new anti-dengue vaccine. It was brought to light when it was discovered the vaccine could potentially cause children to contract a more deadly form of dengue, and a number of children allegedly died because of the vaccine. On Mar. 1, five Department of Health officials involved in the case were indicted by the Department of Justice. Notably, Persida Acosta of the Public Attorney’s Office fiercely rallied against it, but the way she did it turned to fear mongering, which caused many parents to be scared of all kinds of vaccines, period. How bad was it? Health workers were called “child killers.

And so people have rejected even measles vaccines, and now the province of Cavite (just one of the many areas experiencing an outbreak) has declared a state of calamity.

For a disease that modern society was thought to have mostly wiped out. And before you start thinking that the measles is just nothing, remember: Possible complications of the disease include brain swelling, blindness, and seizures. And, you know, death.

Vaccinate your kids. This shouldn’t be a controversial statement. I don’t know why you’d risk having them lose their sight just so you can prove a point. I don’t know why you’d rather have a dead kid than a vaccinated one. And it’s not just your own kid that you’re putting at risk. Vaccinations help the community. If most of the people are vaccinated, then the spread of the disease would be contained. It’s called herd immunity, and it protects people who aren’t vaccinated, like infants who are too young to receive their first shots. By not vaccinating your child, you’re responsible for helping a disease spread, making you morally culpable for any deaths that occur.

If you’re scared that the vaccine that would be injected into your child could be harmful to them, then ask a doctor (a real one) that you trust. Does it turn out that they’re allergic to that specific vaccine? Then switch to one that they’re not allergic to. Don’t turn your child into another number.

 

Featured photo courtesy of Inquirer.net

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TAGS: anti-vaxx Department of Health epidemic measles nolisoli vaccine