Misinformation and 'myths about vaccination' - Seeker's Thoughts

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Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Misinformation and 'myths about vaccination'

Vaccine hesitancy is listed by the World Health Organization as one of 10 threats to global health. A sense of mistrust seems underpin the growing concerns being expressed on the MMR vaccine in India, for instance or the outright “anti-vax” campaign seen overseas.


And however minimal or localized these incidents may be, health authorities are worried that it could negatively impact genuine public health and immunization campaigns.

Against this backdrop, doctors and public health experts are calling for focused efforts to address parent and community fears with scientific evidence, and tackle vaccine half-truth fanned by social media.
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In March 2019, facebook said it would step in to curb misinformation on vaccines. The move followed anti-vaxx campaigner using social media to spread the fear of vaccines and the risk of links to autism. 
Vaccination

While vaccination is one of the most successful public health interventions, there has always been a parallel movement against vaccines. 
Apart from scientific factors, the uptake of vaccinations is influenced by historical, political, socioculture and economic factors. 
In India, the health system is struggling with logistical weaknesses. It is difficult to take the  vaccination to the remotest corners; while on the other hand some people in places where vaccination is available resist it.


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Unwillingness to be vaccinated is a growing problem in the developed world. This trend is gradually emerging in several parts of India as well. 
Other factors, such as heightened awareness of the profit motives of the vaccines industry, conflicts of interest among policy-makers, social, culture and religious considerations have eroded the people’s trust in vaccination.
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The eradication of small pox and more recently, the concerted efforts to eliminate polio provide evidence of the success of vaccination programmes. 
It has globally recognized that vaccination is an essential public health service in all nations. High coverage of vaccination against specific infectious diseases is required for the control of these infections and when the coverage is high, not only does it protect the vaccinated, but also provides herd immunity and interrupts the transmission of the infectious agent in the community.

What led to misconception regarding vaccines in India?

The vaccination field has seen many controversies in India. Relatively recently we have seen opposition to the pulse polio campaign in some parts of north India because of misinformation or rumors about the vaccination drives.
 Focused engagement with community leadership, mass media and house-to house campaign helped address this at the field level. 
Expressing concern, health officials explained that the government’s vaccination has come under a lot of scrutiny after the fake alerts and misconceptions with regard to the measles vaccination.

How do poor immunization rates affect the public?

Immunization efforts work best when there is significant coverage and the concept of herd immunity kicks in.
 We need to be as close to full coverage as possible to prevent outbreaks. Those impacted are in rural or urban poor settings as they face risk factors like overcrowding, poor, sanitation, least accessible quality in health services.

Some Data
Mandatory immunization for children in India between nine months and 15 years of age against measles nine months and 15 years of age against measles and rubella has not worked its charm, with India and Indonesia accounting for over 90% of unvaccinated children in southeast Asia, according to the WHO misconceptions and misinformation have turns out to be the main culprit, reports the pharmacy letter’s India correspondent.

According to the Southeast Asia Regional Office of the World Health Organization (WHO), 3.1 million children in India and 1.1 million in Indonesia did not get measles vaccination in 2016. 
Together, they account for 91% for unvaccinated children in the region, with India alone accounting 67% of the children missing immunization. Measles still kills an estimated 134,200 children worldwide every year, which includes more than 54,500 in Southeast Asia alone.
India’s measles elimination campaign was rocked by rumors and fake alerts claiming the vaccine is banned in the USA for causing serious side effects, including damaging a child’s immunity and memory and is allegedly being pushed in India by Big pharmacy looking for an easy market to dump their products.

Rapid growth of India’s market

The vaccine market in India has been growing rapidly. The rising demand for better healthcare infrastructure in India and high awareness levels of the benefit of immunization have been the major factors.

A new report has noted the global vaccines market is forecast to reach $49.26 billion by 2022 from $34.30 billion in 2017, expanding at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.5% during 2017-2022, driven by the rising prevalence of diseases, increasing government and non-government funding for vaccine development.

There has been an increase uptake of new generation vaccines in India such as pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV), rotavirus vaccine, varicella vaccine, HPV, and typhoid conjugate vaccine.

Health official pointed out: Pneumococcal disease is the leading cause of vaccine-preventable death in children less than five years of age globally and in India. 
India accounts for nearly 20% of global pneumonia deaths in this age group. In 2010, pneumococcal pneumonia accounted for approximately 16% of all severe pneumonia cases and 30% of pneumonia related deaths in children below five years of age in India.

Introducing the PCV is aimed at substantially reducing the diseases burden.

An indigenously developed vaccine against chikungunya has also made headlines, especially with chikungunya spreading fast across India. There is no known cure and to-date there is no vaccine available anywhere in the world.

Overcoming vaccine hesitancy

A significant challenge has been addressing vaccine hesitancy, creating awareness about the value of vaccine and managing misinformation, particularly on social media. 
Media has been a supportive partner in disseminating correct information during campaigns. 
Regular briefings have been conducted where WHO-NPSP experts and government officials have jointly addressed queries from journalists. In addition, a strong adverse events following immunization surveillance program is in place to address community concerns and maintain public confidence.

International action plan for vaccination

Under the global vaccine action plan, the WHO plans the elimination of measles and rubella by 2020 in five regions. The UNICEF too, as a critical stakeholder, has been engaging with organization across India to create trust in vaccines and address any myths around immunization.

A Way forward

India’s recent public health successes give cause for optimism. The MR vaccination initiative is making rapid strides to ensure better life chances for India’s children.
 Public health experts point to India’s success in tackling polio through an intensive immunization programme. The success of these programmes lies in react quickly and honestly in cases of vaccine related episodes.
Parents should be aware on vaccines, its necessity and safety. But it is up to government and doctors to keep this communication with parents ongoing transparent and scientific so that benefits to the children and larger community are not lost in misinformation. Sensitize media to evidence based rather than sensational approach.

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