As people travel they spread infectious diseases. While rates have gone down, greater interconnectedness and mobility has increased the difficulty of predicting and preventing outbreaks. Over the past few years, the global health community has battled epidemics like Ebola and Zika.
Currently, Brazil is in the midst of its worst Yellow Fever outbreak in decades and health workers are struggling to vaccinate 23 million people as the virus continues to spread at a rapid rate. Although Brazil makes its own vaccine, the public health response was significantly delayed. The eagerness of people to receive vaccines at clinics was initially high. However, after anti-vaccine rumors spread on social media platforms, many became fearful.
This is not the first case in which vaccine skepticism amplified by the media has threatened lives. While today, many cervical cancer cases in India could be prevented with an effective HPV vaccine, reluctance remains strong due to a 2009 HPV trial in which 7 girls out of 25,000 died. Though the deaths were from causes unrelated to the vaccine, such as snake bite and drowning, various media reports attacked the vaccine and the trial as the culprits.
Repercussions from misinformation can be much more impactful than many may realize. With the ability to connect within seconds, comes the responsibility to vet information thoroughly and intentionally.
February 28th, 2018 marked the 20th anniversary of The Lancet publishing Andrew Wakefield’s notorious study which falsely linked MMR vaccines to Autism. Although his medical license has been revoked and his argument has since been debunked, consequences still persist.
photo credit: GAVI