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The Anti-Vaxxer Movement: Its Most frightening Repercussions 

Posted on 13.11.2019

One of the most accurate assessments of the entire anti-vaxxer phenomenon written recently is that “it’s not really about medicine.” Instead it’s about something far more intangible and insidious, involving both conspiracy and mistrust: the truth. Who truly knows it, why it’s being withheld and the lengths people will go to for their own version. 


It makes sense. The internet is there to validate any and all points of view, no matter how divorced from fact and common sense they may be. And, as a result, movements can form based on emotion and fear and in turn end up causing actual harm rather than preventing it. That is what has happened with the anti-vaxxers.  


As The New York Times puts it, “Again and again, until blue in the face, medical authorities have debunked the renegade assertion that there’s a link between the M.M.R. vaccine, so named because it inoculates against measles, mumps and rubella, and autism. [Recently] a group of Danish researchers who looked at more than 650,000 children over 10 years announced that they had found no such association. 


Again and again,” they continue. “Until out of breath, those same medical authorities have also explained why making sure that all or nearly all children are vaccinated is so crucial: It creates a critical mass of resistance, known as herd immunity, that doesn’t give a disease the chance to spread.” And yet, what the World Health Organisation (WHO) has dubbed “vaccine hesitancy”, is now on their list of 10 global threats to health in 2019 with a 30% increase of measles cases globally. 


There is a level of human nature in the midst of this, as no parent wants to inflict harm on their children. But, as one doctor put it, “If you lived in a world where there were hardly any car accidents, you’d think, ‘My baby cries and squirms whenever I strap her in; why should I use a car seat?’ But we do use them because we want to prevent something much worse than an unhappy child.” 


The problem has grown most rapidly in the US; the UK still has faith in vaccines for the most part, with only one in every 11 people saying they don’t trust the medical procedure. However, Professor Heidi Larson, who leads the Vaccine Confidence Project at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, says there is a growing lack of confidence in experts that can often result in a reaction against vaccines.  


“Vaccines are kind of a canary for your relationship with government, with big business,” says Professor Larson. “There’s this growing movement of young mothers who are completely ‘pro-nature’. This identity, which is paleo, gluten-free diets, home births – they’re not even using contraceptives now they’re using an app  with that they’re adding in a vaccine-free childhood.” She sees it as misguided, rather than evil and she’s right. However, when measles, pertussis (more commonly known as whooping cough) and mumps, all of which can be deadly in small children, are beginning to return on a global scale, it is perhaps time for more drastic steps to be taken. 


In the UK, these steps are being seriously considered as vaccination rates fell last year and the UK lost its official “measles-free” status after 231 cases were confirmed from January to March 2019. Health secretary Matt Hancock has floated the idea of mandatory vaccinations for schoolchildren in England, saying “When the state provides a service to people then it’s a two-way street. You have to take your responsibilities too.” However, the WHO makes no recommendation either for or against mandating vaccinations  it is up to countries to decide the best way of ensuring high rates, it says. 


Whether this is the right move or not remains to be seen; there is a worry that mandatory vaccinations would lead to parents who disagreed simply not sending their children to school, depriving them of an education. 


Whatever the solution is, the problem is growing, and something must be done to, once again, stop the spread of these totally preventable diseases.   


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