Editorial: Vaccines fears are going viral
Human beings have made a lot of progress over the years.
We turned the wheel into the cart and then the car and then stuck it on rovers that went to Mars. (Rest in peace, Opportunity.) We set wood on fire, and then rocks, and then oil, and then we found a way to shatter atoms to produce more energy than a million forests.
We have created and destroyed and discovered, but there may be nothing more amazing than how we have healed.
There was a time that a simple cut could become inflamed and infected and spell death. Childbirth was as likely to end a life as start one. A lifetime was over before it barely began.
Then we discovered antibiotics. We found ways to find problems early and avert danger. We extended the human lifespan. We nearly eradicated many diseases. Smallpox. Polio. Or we drastically reduced their impact. Rubella. Diphtheria. Tetanus.
But in recent years, people have pushed back against the very vaccines that made the difference between a long life and a far too common death. Vaccines, they insisted, were the problem, not the solution. Vaccines were to be feared.
Around the developed world, diseases began to come back.
Measles. Mumps. Both were once common childhood illnesses that could have lasting consequences, not the least of which was death. Measles once killed about 6,000 people a year before vaccination led the U.S. government to declare the disease eradicated in 2000.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, there have been 127 cases of measles in outbreaks across 10 states in the past 50 days. Larger outbreaks are occurring internationally. It is literally going viral.
“Vaccine hesitancy — the reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite the availability of vaccines — threatens to reverse progress made in tackling vaccine-preventable diseases,” the World Health Organization says on its website, where it lists the issue as one of the top 10 threats to Earth’s population in 2019, alongside Ebola, HIV and drug resistance.
Human beings have made such progress, and there are still too many diseases waiting to be eradicated. We can’t let unfounded fears stand in the way.