Fears provoked by the anti-vaccination movement may appear exaggerated if we consider that, worldwide, the vast majority of people believe that vaccines are safe and effective (79 percent and 84 percent, respectively, according to the World Health Organization). Yet a small number of unvaccinated people is enough to threaten the immunity of the population.
That is why WHO has listed “vaccine hesitancy” as one of 10 threats to global health in 2019. Whereas other dangers stem from the consequences of pollution and climate change, as well as from illnesses that plague poorer populations, the anti-vaxxers movement signals a strange reversal in societies that are not on the front line of disease.
In 2017, reported cases of measles increased by 30 percent worldwide from 2016. WHO notes that “vaccine hesitancy” is not the sole cause of this. “However, some countries that were close to eliminating the disease have seen a resurgence,” it added.
Recently, on the basis of 2018 figures, WHO removed Greece from the list of countries where measles was considered to have been eliminated (along with three other European Union member-states and another three countries outside the EU). T
he president of the National Vaccination Committee, Professor Maria Theodoridou, responded that from the start of 2019 until this year, “the reported cases were imported; they are not cases that broke out inside Greece.” She stressed that WHO’s statement regarding Greece gave “a wrong impression that we have an ongoing epidemic; this is not the case as the epidemic is in remission.”
In 2017 and 2018, there were 3,259 cases of measles, mostly involving young children among the Roma community and young adults (25-44 years old), Theodoridou told the Athens-Macedonian News Agency.
Whether imported or not, measles is a threat when a population’s members are not adequately vaccinated. This is why WHO and the European Commission organized an international summit on vaccinations in Brussels on Thursday.
Opening the event, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker declared, “It is inexcusable that in a world as developed as ours, there are still children dying of diseases that should have been eradicated long ago.” This raises the questions: Why are those who doubt science so often the same people who swallow conspiracy theories unquestioningly? Is this a symptom of a general distrust of authority or its cause? Is there a vaccine for suicidal cynicism?