Access and Vaccine Hesitancy Both Blamed for Increase in Measles Cases

 

Measles cases have spiked globally after years of decline. Here, a family physician prepares a measles vaccine in Bucharest, Romania. Doctors there say that parental hesitancy about vaccines and lack of faith in state institutions have hurt immunization efforts.
Daniel Mihailescu/AFP/Getty Images/npr.org

Measles outbreaks are on the rise around the world. Low-income countries and countries mired in conflict are facing measles outbreaks because the vaccine is not readily available or accessible. But now parents in other countries, often wealthier countries, are opting out of the vaccine, which is credited in nearly eliminating the disease. This so called “vaccine hesitancy” is prompting outbreaks in parts of Japan, Canada, Europe, and the U.S. Vaccine access and vaccine hesitancy are both issues in the Philippines, where more than 12,700 measles cases have been reported since the beginning of this year, with at least 203 measles-related deaths.

In January, the World Health Organization declared vaccine hesitancy one of the top ten threats to global health – a list that included both Ebola and antibiotic resistant bacteria. According to WHO, reported measles cases increased by 30 percent from 2016 to 2017. Health officials found that over 60 percent of cases reported from 2013 to 2017 were preventable with the vaccine, and that combating the new outbreaks of measles detracts resources from other health concerns. While other diseases are also impacted by vaccine hesitancy, health officials believe measles cases are spiking because of the highly contagious nature of the disease.

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