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Social Media Caused Vaccine Hesitancy Leading To A Health Crisis: WHO

In its list of top ten ‘global threats to public health’, the World Health Organisation has listed vaccine hesitancy – the resistance towards vaccination as one of the top threats to public health in 2019.

Despite vaccination available for some of the oldest diseases in the country, ever increasing cases of this crop up every year. Recent data from the WHO showed that the number of reported measles cases have multiplied exponentially, with India being the top contributor.

Measles cases have seen a 300 per cent increase in the first three months of 2019 as compared to the same period in 2018. Less than one in ten cases are reported globally, with variations by region. With this as the background to date, 2019 has seen 170 countries report 1,12,163 cases to WHO.

As of this time last year, there were 28,124 measles cases from 163 countries. Countries that have reported the most number of cases include India, Ukraine, Myanmar, and Thailand.

Experts believe social media plays a major role in hampering vaccination in the last few years. While some kind of reluctance has always remained including the confidence in the quality of vaccine, complacency, or difficulty in accessing the vaccines, but with rumors spreading through WhatsApp and Facebook, the hesitancy has grown folds. In February, the social networking giant was reported to have allowed advertisers to promote anti-vaccine content to nearly 9 lakh people interested in “vaccine controversies”, says a report.

“In India, WhatsApp is being used to spread misinformation about vaccines. Others continue to accuse Facebook of helping anti-vaccine activists to raise money and promoting conspiracy theories in search results, despite efforts to limit the spread of vaccine misinformation. Platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime may have spread misinformation by hosting anti-vaccine documentaries,” says a UN report.

In a recent visit to the state of Jharkhand, DNA found out that many communities were hesitant towards vaccination which was being provided free of cost.

“Many did not show up and when I started the door-to-door administration on the fourth day, they shut their doors. Most of them are giving a total refusal to the medicine citing distrust in the drug. They say that they do not suffer from the disease then why the government has been coercing them to take the medicine, it sure has some agenda behind it,” said Gulshan Akbari, an Anganwadi worker from Badgain village in Jharkhand,

Among Muslim-dominated regions vaccination hesitancy has been a problem globally, with rumors including that the vaccine causes infertility. This line of thinking is prevalent as the community insists that vaccination programmes are part of a larger government agenda to reduce high birth rates in the Muslim community. – DNA India

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