Fight vaccine hesitancy as ‘contagious disease’, UN meeting told

Fight vaccine hesitancy as ‘contagious disease’, UN meeting told

Faced with a global resurgence of measles, health experts called Tuesday for countries to step up the fight against vaccine resistance, warning the movement was spreading like a contagious disease.

World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus joined experts and health ministers from a range of countries at an event on “promoting vaccine confidence”, amid rising concerns that resistance to immunisation is allowing preventable diseases to flourish.

“No country can afford to be complacent about immunisation,” Tedros told the meeting in Geneva, where the WHO is hosting its main annual gathering.

The WHO says cases of measles – a highly contagious viral infection that can prove fatal – surged 300 percent in 2018.

Resurgence of the once all-but-eradicated disease is linked to the growing anti-vaccine movement in richer nations, which has been identified as a major global health threat.

“It’s a contagious disease,” Seth Berkley, who heads the GAVI Vaccine Alliance, told AFP, warning that misinformation about vaccine safety “spreads at the speed of light.”

The anti-vax phenomenon has adherents across Western countries but especially in the US, where it has been fuelled by the spread on social media of medically baseless claims, debunked 20 years ago, that the jab could cause autism.

The United States, which sponsored Tuesday’s event with the EU and Brazil, lamented the “misinformation” causing vaccination rates in the country to decline.