With mass measles outbreaks across the world in 2018 and 2019, the UN urges parents to not fall for anti-vaxx disinformation

The numbers don't lie – here's why you should vaccinate your kids.
The numbers don't lie – here's why you should vaccinate your kids.

This just in: 98 countries around the globe reported a rise in measles cases in 2018. Several of these countries had previously completely eradicated the life-threatening disease, but it reared its ugly head again.

Henrietta Fore, UNICEF’s executive director explains in their detailed report, "Lack of action today will have disastrous consequences for children tomorrow."

Also read: Anti-vaxx billboards are going up all over the US – here’s why it’s problematic

Is measles really that serious? 

While measles can look a lot like chicken pox at first, the disease is highly contagious – more so than Ebola, tuberculosis or influenza, reports Unicef – and can be contracted by someone up to two hours after an infected person has left the room. It spreads quite easily, especially to the vulnerable like those babies who are still too young to be vaccinated. 

The disease is airborn and infects the respiratory tract, and while symptoms may include a fever, rash, mouth ulcers and a runny nose at first, the disease can lead to serious complications in the form of encephalitis, pneumonia, bronchiectasis, and in extreme cases, permanent mental and physical disabilities and even death.

Read more here: Is measles really that serious?

Measles around the world 

Here's a map of countries that have seen the biggest spikes in incidents in measles recently. Note that the figures refer to the amount of increases, not the total figures. Yes, frightening.

The Ukraine, Philippines and Brazil had the largest increases in measles cases between 2017 and 2018. The Ukraine led with 30 338 cases reported at the time of the survey, although their government has since published an update that in the first two months of 2019 alone, they recorded an additional 24 042 cases!

Significantly, the Philippines was the second highest with an increase of 13 192 cases between 2017 and 2018, and so far this year they reported 12 736 more cases and 203 deaths. 

The report also included countries that hadn't had any reported cases in 2017, but suddenly saw soaring numbers in 2018. The most notable was Brazil, with 10 262 cases, up from zero.  

While not included in the above countries, the U.S. has also recorded a six-fold increase between 2017 and 2018, with CBS This Morning reporting in January that Washington has even declared it a public health emergency. Watch:

Also read: All about spots, bites, rashes and fevers

According to the clip, measles has an infection rate of 90% for anyone exposed and not immunised, and almost 30% of children under 5 years who contract measles will have to be hospitalised. If a child was vaccinated, they'd be 95% protected.

One mom says, "It’s their lives on the line, honestly, if they’re not vaccinated and something like this happens then, what am I going to do to save them?"

The evident solution to the life-threatening disease? Vaccinate. your. kids. 

CBS This Morning further reports that 18 US states, including Washington, allow parents to choose whether they want to abstain from vaccinations due to moral or personal beliefs. But Washington state has just introduced legislation that scraps the personal belief exemption, but is coming up against anti-vaxx parents who say this infringes on their freedom.

With an anti-vaxx movement that has only grown with the spread of misinformation – in large part due to everyone having an unfiltered voice on social media and being able to spend money on Facebook and Google campaigns to target new parents specifically – more and more people are choosing not to vaccinate their children.

The so-called "facts" the anti-vaxx movement is promoting in defence are false and not based on clinical research. The old link with the MMR vaccine and autism has been debunked over and over again. And some of the biggest antivax prophets have built quite a lucrative business on fear-mongering and spreading disinformation.

While South African parents have the freedom to choose whether or not they’d like to vaccinate, by not doing so they’re putting others at risk, particularly the immuno-compromised. This includes malnourished children, those with TB and HIV, as well as babies who are too young to get vaccinated yet.

CBS makes a brilliant point, and one worth noting:  

"It’s one thing to protect your own freedom, it’s another to infringe on other people’s health."

So while it is a sensitive topic, and we must protect everyone’s rights, we now need to refer back to the numbers that we certainly cannot ignore. And if it shows anything, it’s just how disastrous the consequences of not vaccinating can be, even in parts of the U.S. where cases haven’t been reported in decades but which are now seeing new outbreaks.

Fore concludes, “Almost all of these cases are preventable, and yet children are getting infected even in places where there is simply no excuse. 

“Measles may be the disease, but, all too often, the real infection is misinformation, mistrust and complacency. We must do more to accurately inform every parent, to help us safely vaccinate every child.” 

Here are South Africa's vaccination schedules on the state and private programmes.

Also see: Baby vaccinations: What each is called and why we get them

Top 6 truths about MMR

  • MMR immunisation is the safest way to protect children against measles, mumps and rubella.
  • Over 500 million doses of MMR have been used in 90 countries around the world since the 1970s.
  • According to The World Health Organization, MMR is a highly effective vaccine with an outstanding safety record.
  • No country in the world recommends giving MMR vaccine as three separate injections.
  • Children who are not immunised with MMR increase the chance that others will get the diseases.
  • Evidence proves that MMR vaccine does not cause autism or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). There are now numerous studies that do not support a link between autism and IBD and the MMR vaccine.

Read more here: Largest study ever finds no link between measles vaccine and autism

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