Just two months into 2019 and the US has already had more measles cases than the whole of 2017. The root cause of this – you guessed it – is misformation and myths about vaccines.
According to the latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2019 has already seen 159 individual measles cases in 10 states, approximately 50 percent of which were linked to one outbreak around near Clark County in Washington state and Portland, Oregon.
By comparison, there were just 120 cases in 2017 and 86 cases in 2016.
The US Committee on Energy & Commerce gathered in Capitol Hill on Wednesday to discuss the “growing public health threat” of measles outbreaks in the US (video below) citing “vaccine hesitancy” and the rise of misinformation as one of the prime factors behind the ugly resurgence.
“What is particularly disconcerting, is that this is a public health problem for which science has already provided a solution: a safe and effective vaccine,” said Chairman Frank Pallone, Democratic Representative for New Jersey.
He went on to blame misinformation and myth as the primary cause of the growing number of cases, citing the role social media plays in perpetuating fears about the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine. Access to vaccines in the US is also a factor, he added, albeit to a lesser extent.
The remarks mirror recent comments by the World Health Organization who blamed the increase in measle cases on the “failure to vaccinate," which they also noted was being encouraged by misinformation.
Social media giants, such as YouTube and Facebook, have recently come under fire for their role in the spread of anti-vaxxer propaganda. In response, YouTube said they would demonetize anti-vaxxer videos, citing a ban on “dangerous and harmful” material.
This week's hearing at Congress recognized that the remedy to the public health threat is to provide communities and parents with "real, science-based information" about the safety and importance of vaccinations.
“Before the measles vaccine was developed in 1963, there were half-a-million cases of the measles being reported every year to the CDC, 48,000 people a year were being sent to the hospital and, as a result, as many as 500 people a year died as a result,” Chair Diana DeGette said in an opening statement.
“It wasn’t until the development of the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine – known as the MMR vaccine – that we, as a country, were able to stop this horrific illness,” she added.
“But despite that success, here we are again.”