The movement of anti-vaccers: taking humanity back 200 years

Vaccine 2018 India

UNICEF/Dhiraj Singh A health worker immunizes a pregnant woman inside at health center in Aurangabad, India.

This article was exclusively written for the Sting by Ms. Diana-Elena Nistor, a sixth year medical student at Carol Davila University of Medicine and Pharmacy in Bucharest, Romania. She 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 neither IFMSA’s nor The European Sting’s view on the topic.


The first vaccine ever used was in 1796, when Edward Jenner decided to take material from cowpox pustules to provide protection against smallpox. Two hundred years later, after various improvements of the method, smallpox was eradicated. This is one of the greatest medical achievements of public health.

Edward Jenner’s success was followed by Louis Pasteur’s rabies vaccine in 1885. After that, rapid progress led to the development of vaccines against diphtheria, tetanus, cholera, plague, and more by the 1930s.

Anti-vaccination movements have always been around. Although vaccination saved millions of lives over the last two hundred years, the opposition has never ceased to doubt it.

In England, Edward Jenner’s experiment was met with criticism, fear, and protest, that worsened after the mandatory vaccine policies of the government. The citizens showed immediate resistance, strengthened by the fact that vaccine refusal was punished with penalties. Anti-vaccers leagues and rallies led to the development of a commission that would study vaccination. Their result was clear: vaccination did offer protection against smallpox; however, it was followed by removal of penalties for failure to vaccinate and included a “conscientious objector” clause, so that opponents could obtain an exemption certificate.

An international controversy over the safety of the DTP (Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis) erupted in the 1970s, when anti-vaccers claimed that DTP is related to neurological conditions. This led to a decreased vaccination rate and three epidemics of pertussis (whooping cough).

The MMR (Measles, Mumps, and Rubella) vaccine faced its own controversy, in 1998, when British doctor Andrew Wakefield published his suspicion of a possible connection between MMR vaccine and autism. The article was a fraud and Wakefield was struck from the medical register in Great Britain, with evidence that parents who believed the vaccine had harmed their children paid him to falsify data. Even though no study found a link between the vaccine and autism, it is still one of the greatest fears of the anti-vaccers.

Wakefield’s fake article hits Europe in 2018, the year with an unprecedented wave of sickness and death caused by measles, a disease entirely preventable, that was thought to be “eliminated”.  With so many parents afraid to vaccinate their children, the herd immunity (indirect protection of the ones that cannot become immune to contagious diseases due to medical reasons) is severely reduced. It occurs when a large percentage of a population has become immune to an infection, naturally (after infection) or artificially (after vaccination).

An important role in today’s catastrophe is played by the internet, the place where anyone can have an opinion and everyone can choose what to believe. Anti-vaccer movements exist since forever, but the internet brought together all the confusions and the insecurities of parents all over the world.

Today’s biggest ethical question is: are legal exemptions still justified in the times of reaching herd immunity? Health professionals struggle to combat the anti-vaccination movement with all of their resources,including intense social media activity.

About the author

Diana-Elena Nistor is a sixth year medical student at „Carol Davila” University of Medicine and Pharmacy in Bucharest, Romania. She had the opportunity to do an Erasmus year in Perugia, Italy. Also, during the summer between her fourth and fifth year she followed King’s College London Summer School’s courses. She is interested in global health, and her long term goal is to raise awareness about subjects such as vaccination, use of antibiotics and the importance of screening in various pathologies. She consider publishing this article would be a great step towards that goal.

Advertising

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

How the United States can win back its manufacturing mojo

We can save the Earth. Here’s how

“A Junior Enterprise is run only by students.. there are no professors or managers that can help you solve your problems”

This is what the world’s CEOs think about the global outlook

Kellen Europe Hosts EuroConference 2016

JADE Handover Ceremony at the European Parliement

EU Trade Ministers come together in a desperate attempt to save TTIP

Investing in working conditions and quality jobs

The health of the human being in coexistence with a transformative biosphere

Imaginary Journeys Into Eternal China

Mosquitoes kill more people every day than sharks do in a century

A new proposal breaks the stalemate over the Banking Union

As the inventor of copy and paste dies, here are other computing innovations we take for granted

Assembly of European Regions @ European Business Summit 2014: The European regions on the path to recovery

Where are the world’s nuclear weapons?

Parliament cuts own spending to facilitate agreement on EU budget

Turkey needs to step up investment in renewables to curb emissions

Zero carbon buildings are possible following these four steps

ILO: Progress on gender equality at work remains inadequate

One Hundred Years of Qipao History: from Shanghai to EU

The European Green Deal must be at the heart of the COVID-19 recovery

7 ways the ‘biological century’ will transform healthcare

Implementation of EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey: EU mobilises €663 million in humanitarian assistance

EU’s core members are eyeing larger parts of arms trade and of world map

Rural women a ‘powerful force’ for global climate action: UN Secretary-General

‘Wind blowing in the direction of peace’ in Africa: UN Secretary-General

UN envoy says he ‘is ready to go to Idlib’ to help ensure civilian safety amid rising fears of government offensive

Larger species are more at risk of extinction than smaller ones – here’s why

World remains a ‘violent, highly discriminatory place’ for girls

FROM THE FIELD: Restoring life to Ghana’s land

UN food agency appeals for access to key storage facility amid fight for Hudaydah

‘We cannot lose momentum’ on the road to peace in Yemen, UN envoy warns

Impossible Brexit options: WTO or new referendum?

This Central Asian lake is a stark reminder of the impact we have on the planet

The job description for a COVID-19 community health worker – and how this could fight US unemployment

5 creative alternatives to plastic packaging

Developing countries should not be liable for emissions ‘accumulated throughout history’, key UN development forum hears

These 5 charts show our shifting behaviour around coronavirus

People talk less now than during the Cold War, says Merkel at Davos

Here’s how we can tackle the growing cybersecurity skills gap

UN forum to explore use of outer space to improve lives, protect planet

Discussion at Europe House: Brexit & Food

7 shocking statistics that show the cost of corruption

Libya: Security Council demands commitment to ‘a lasting ceasefire’

FROM THE FIELD: Chad returnees’ reluctant homecoming

UN rights chief calls for release of hundreds abducted and abused in South Sudan

Everyone’s ‘buy-in’ needed to restore peace in Kosovo, UN envoy tells Security Council

Multiculturalism, social diversity and tolerance

3 things to know about women in STEM

These five exercise trends will help society and your health

How our global battle against coronavirus could help us fight climate change

Protecting citizens’ access to social security in case of no-deal Brexit

European Youth Forum welcomes steps towards raising awareness of youth rights by EU ministers

‘Be the change’ we desperately need, UN deputy chief urges global youth

If innovators can solve India’s problems, they can save the world. Here’s why

“Asia-Pacific takes stock of ambitious development targets”, written by the Heads of UNFPA and ESCAP

This is why coral reefs are so vital for the planet

Refugee crisis update: Commission is struggling alone with little help from EU or G7 leaders

How Germany strives to mold ECB’s monetary policy to her interests

Coronavirus: the Commission mobilises all of its resources to protect lives and livelihoods

More Stings?

Advertising

Comments

  1. John Bremner says:

    Is the goal of the anti-vaccines movement to reduce population via death by disease, perhaps their twisted answer to over-populations of our beautiful plant?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s