Anti-vaxxers one of 10 biggest global health threats: World Health Organization

Feb 27 2019, 11:45 pm

With the recent rise in measles cases here in Canada and abroad, the World Health Organization (WHO) is now calling anti-vaxxers one of the 10 greatest threats to global health for 2019.

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The strong language comes as part of a new report by the WHO, which says the resurgence in preventable measles cases is one of 10 major issues it will tackle this year, putting it on par with climate change, cancer, Ebola and HIV.

“The reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite the availability of vaccines – threatens to reverse progress made in tackling vaccine-preventable diseases,” the WHO said in its report. Vaccination is one of the most cost-effective ways of avoiding disease – it currently prevents 2-3 million deaths a year, and a further 1.5 million could be avoided if global coverage of vaccinations [is] improved.”

The report also specifically calls out the rise in measles cases around the globe, as a result of “vaccine hesitancy.”

The disease “has seen a 30% increase in cases globally,” the report states. “Some countries that were close to eliminating the disease have seen a resurgence.”

In Toronto, for example, an anti-vaccine group recently erected billboards around the city. However, those will now be coming down, due to public outcry.  A city councillor called the billboards a threat to public health “and our children.”

And in Vancouver, the local health authority reported two new cases of measles on Wednesday, bringing the total number of infected patients to 15.

Possible exposure to the infection may have also occurred at a Toys R Us location in Richmond, Vancouver International Airport, and several other locations. 

Symptoms of measles:

  • Check your immunization records to make sure you and your children have had two doses of the measles vaccine (MMR or MMRV). Your immunization record or your doctor can provide you with this information. Adults 18 years of age and older, born in or after 1970 require two doses of measles vaccine; children 12 months to less than 18 years of age, health care workers and adults attending post-secondary institutions are required to have two doses; those born before 1970 are generally considered immune.
  • If your immunization record is not up-to-date, contact your local public health unit.
  • Infants under one year of age, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems can get very ill with measles and should contact their health care professional immediately for further assessment.
  • Watch for symptoms of measles until 21 days after exposure. These include a high fever, cold-like symptoms (cough/runny nose); sore eyes or sensitivity to light; small spots with a white centre on the inside of the mouth; and a red rash lasting four to seven days.