Since vaccines have eliminated and reduced most vaccine-preventable diseases, people tend not to remember just how devastating these life-threatening diseases can be. Vaccination is the most cost-effective medical intervention ever introduced and, together with clean water and sanitation, it has eliminated many infectious diseases that once killed millions of people. A report of the World Health Organization states that today vaccines prevent 2,5 million deaths per year.
Every minute five lives are saved by vaccines worldwide.
And still, dangerous ideas make their way into society. “Vaccine-preventable diseases aren’t really that serious”. “My child will not get the measles vaccines, I did my research on the internet.”
Anti-vaccination opposition is as old as mass vaccination itself. The original anti-vaccination organization “Anti-compulsory Vaccination League” was established in the UK in 1866 to protest smallpox vaccination mandates. And in 1998, The Lancet published a report headed by Andrew Wakefield that implied a causal link between the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine and the development of autism. As a result of this global vaccine scare, immunization rates dropped, leading to an increase of preventable measles cases. The medical community stood up against Wakefield, his research paper contained immense mistakes and was proven to be fraudulent, The Lancet retracted the study, and Wakefield’s name was deleted from the medical register, but still the harm was done and continues to be done. “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind,” wrote the famous horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, “is fear”.
The anti-vax movement never really grows. It goes up and down all of the time, but as it hits a peak as a vaccine-preventable disease hits a low, outbreaks begin to pop up and more people get vaccinated.
However, scientists have the moral obligation to “talk back”. Communication is crucial, sharing and explaining scientific insights are of critical importance. Good researchers will tell the truth, even if their findings are different from what they had anticipated or hoped. Breakthrough advances in medical knowledge happen through years of dedicated research conducted by many researchers across numerous studies.