Are we at the edge of anti-vaccination health crisis?

vaccination 2018__

UN health agency highlights importance of measles vaccine amid Europe outbreak, UN News (WHO, 2018)

This article was exclusively written for the The European Sting by Mr. Jan Harpula, a 5th  year med student at the Medical University of Silesia interested in the field of cardiology and radiology. He is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


Well, not for sure. But there are some movements, whose actions may lead to significant destabilization of public health in the coming years. Ofcourse we are speaking here about the anti-vaccination groups, which gained both power and disciples after Andrew Wakefield published his infamous research papers about vaccines and their connection with autism.

So, maybe we will start with a question – does vaccines work after all? Ofcourse they do, and we can see effects of proper immunization in today’s world, as that data is available for everyone. We can discern that since the vaccine for measles was introduced to public in 1971 (as the MMR combined product) occurrence of this disease dropped drastically.

Vaccines 2018

(source: historyofvaccines.com)

There is a sense in talking about measles these days. Firstly, since the anti-vaccination movements  and their propaganda gained strength this disease has emerged and now we are observing year-by-year increase of cases. In the European Region only, number of measles affairs has reached over 41 000 (only in the first half of the 2018!), and supposingly this trend will continue in the following years.

Secondly, because measles virus wasn’t present for a long time we couldn’t observe long-term complications of this disease, but now this perspective had changed. And the results are terrifying -due to fact that the occurrence of the worst consequence called SSPE – subacute sclerosing panencephalitis is definitely underestimated. For clarifying, this particular effect has approximately 95% chance to kill a infected person. And until recently this complication was estimated to occur in 18 out of 100 000 patients, but now it is said that it would appear in 1 to 600 infected, especially kids under 5 years old (4 times more than in older population).

But there is a method in this insanity of anti-vaccines movement. And it is based on fear, because main leaders of such groups often say that they are fighters of freedom in this corrupted by Big-Pharma world. And by the help of social media their message spreads to thousands and thousands people around the world. And very often, people believe in such tidings – and the word “believe” is ideal here, because they won’t be interested in any kind of actual scientific papers in a discussion.

And by saying that thousands of people supports these groups, I wasn’t joking. This led to a situation here in Poland where we had social project signed by almost 100 000 people, which was addressed to the Government. And guess, what was its name? It was “Freedom for vaccination”, which often translates to “I will not vaccinate my child”. Fortunately it was rejected after second reading, but what will future bring?

For the last but not least remember, that these people will often drown any moderate discussion with the word “freedom”. But what is freedom we should ask? Is it a option to not vaccinate your kid, or a almost 100% chance of living without deadly epidemic diseases like measles?

About the author

Jan Harpula is a member of the IFMSA-Poland (Silesia office). Currently, he is the local coordinator of USG workshops and recently started second project, named “Know your healthcare” (both implemented in the SCOME), as he is interested in organization of healthcare especially in Poland. He’s also a 5th  year med student at the Medical University of Silesia and is particularly interested in the field of cardiology and radiology.

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