There are more children suffering from measles in Minnesota alone this year than there were cases of the disease detected in all of USA last year. 73 cases of Measles have been reported by a Somalian American immigrant community in the region. The community has been a target for anti-vaxxers for years,
The Minnesota Department of Health is not pleased with the recent turn of events. "Many of the cases could have been prevented if people had gotten vaccinated, " Kristen Ehresmann, director of the Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Prevention, and Control Division at the state Department of Health told the CNN.
"This is a disease that is serious, and the opportunity to prevent it is one that we really need to be taking. ... We'd rather invest in preventing disease than spend funds fighting it. We want to focus on promoting health in those instances where we can rather than fighting disease."
Since the outbreak, at least 8,250 people have been exposed to the measles virus in Minnesota, mostly in schools, child-care settings or health-care settings, and there have been 21 hospitalizations, Ehresmann said.
Saving Through Vaccines
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation celebrate an important milestone this year. Thanks to their contributions, polio nears complete eradication in developing nations. Their institute provides vaccines to be administered to babies and children in areas of the world where polio still exists.
This begs an interesting question. Why do treatable diseases pop up in first world nations as they disappear from developing countries? Albany physician, Alok Sood says, “Because we are not seeing those illnesses, people are leery of getting vaccines that they feel they don’t need.” Likewise, the reverse is true. It is common to see children fall victim to treatable diseases in third-world nations. This makes vaccines more in demand.
Countries like France are stepping up to ensure the health and safety of the population. French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe says it is “unacceptable” that children are "still dying of measles”. This declaration comes on the heels of a policy set for 2018 where it will make measles vaccinations mandatory in France.
Despite each country’s best efforts, there still exists the possibility of diseases to spread. This is a major concern for business travellers. Men and women travel the globe, at potential risk of spreading health issues to their families by bringing communicable diseases home.
WHO intervenes, calls tragedy unacceptable
"Every death or disability caused by this vaccine-preventable disease is an unacceptable tragedy,” says Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, Regional Director, Europe, World Health Organization, in reaction to the 35 measles-related deaths across Europe this past year.
In Italy, a recent government ruling states that children must be vaccinated against 12 illnesses before they enroll in school. Meanwhile, France has declared a policy set for 2018 making measles vaccinations mandatory.
Public health services in England plan to ban homeopathic “medicine” for patients. A recent statement issued by the NHS has categorically stated that the branch of medicine has failed to provide conclusive evidence of their medicinal benefits besides placebo effects calling homeopathic remedies a “misuse of funds” due to ineffectiveness and risk.
Ontario, Canada introduces lessons for anti-vaxxers
Immunization rates in Canada vary among provinces. However, currently there is no national plan that monitors the rate of vaccination. Although it is estimated that 85 percent Canadian kids are vaccinated, the country is working towards bringing the numbers up to 95 percent.
In Ontario, students can be suspended from school for having vaccination records that are not up to date. In December 2015, Ottawa Public Heath took the drastic measure of suspending 900 elementary students for not being vaccinated. This is after numerous notices were sent to the parents requesting information.
The issue prompted Ontario’s Health Minister to mandate that parents who choose to stay away from vaccinating their children will be required to attend mandatory education sessions. The sessions would detail the benefit of vaccines as well as the risk caused to other in general.
The debate continues
Governments are choosing to err on the side of science and medicine rather than superstition or hastily concocted theories. However, anti-vaxxers are continuing to crusade for their cause, especially with the ranks of Hollywood celebrities such as Robert De Niro speaking openly in favour of anti-vaccination.
Niro recently joined joining Robert F. Kennedy Jr. at a press conference about vaccine safety. Kennedy, an outspoken antivaxxer, has expressed his concerns about mercury content in vaccines as well as its role in the “autism epidemic”.
All of which remains scientifically unproven. While doctors and scientists pushing for mandatory vaccinations have studies to support them.
The most damaging result of this wave of antivaxxers is the harm to immunity it causes. The effectiveness of total immunization increases if the whole population is on board.
Everyone needs vaccinations to protect those who can’t be immunized. Herd immunity means that if enough people are immune against a disease, they will protect the unvaccinated.
Alex Correa | The Edge Blog