The healthcare community is full of concern as the 45th president of United States shows support for the “vaccine hesitant” side of the barricade.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (a US federal agency), vaccines prevent approximately 2.5 million deaths a year of children under the age of five across the world. Still, a substantial number of Americans question the safety and need for vaccination and decide to stop immunizing their children.
The view is now shared by a new powerful governmental voice. In January, Donald Trump asked Robert F Kennedy Jr, a nephew of John F Kennedy and an anti-vaccine activist, to head a commission on the safety of vaccines. This opens a new era of US healthcare, one headed by skeptics and anti-vaccination figures.
Experts argue that it takes a small number of unvaccinated citizens to pose a public health threat. Without high levels of immunization, “heard immunity” has no room to grow. This may pose a higher risk of outbreaks in the future, which could be especially dangerous for infants, pregnant women and people with impaired immune systems. Vaccinations protect not only those who are being vaccinated but also those who cannot undergo the procedure.
“It’s about protecting yourself and your children, but it’s also about protecting the children down the street and your kids’ friends and their parents,” says Mamuna Majumder. A research fellow at Boston Children’s Hospital.
The origin of skepticism about vaccines can be traced back to the 1998 publication in The Lancet medical journal of a (later retracted) paper which suggested vaccinating children might be causing autism. The theory has since been widely debunked but fake news has taken over the Internet arena, creating wide disinformation.
“With the advent of social media, it’s no surprise that parents are getting a lot of conflicting information,” says Ms. Majumder. “Fake news in the medical world is as rampant as anywhere.”
The vaccination problem was also a subject of discussion between Donald Trump and Bill Gates. According to STAT, the philanthropist made his case for global health and vaccines to Trump.
“Absolutely!” Gates answered emphatically when asked if he raised the topic of vaccines with the new president. Vaccines “are miracles and have done great things, and when we get new ones, we can do a lot. That definitely came up.”
Gates said he emphasized the danger of anti-vaccination movement and tried to persuade Trump to drop the idea of a vaccine safety inquiry.
The tension around vaccination is not only an American issue. The word has spread to Europe and we can now observe the effects of it in Italy, which suffered from a measles outbreak in March caused by a growing vaccine hesitancy movement. The country saw more than 1,000 cases in the first quarter of 2017, a 450% increase year on year.