Vaccinations Drop in Europe, and the Result Was Over 21,000 Cases of Measles

Illustration for article titled Vaccinations Drop in Europe, and the Result Was Over 21,000 Cases of Measles
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Measles is pulling off a disconcerting resurgence across the continent of Europe at the same time the vaccination rate is falling, per recent data from the World Health Organization.

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Over 21,000 people caught measles across the continent in 2017, “following a record low of 5,273 cases in 2016,” the WHO wrote in a press release. Some 35 people died as a result, with 15 countries seeing large outbreaks:

The surge in measles cases in 2017 included large outbreaks (100 or more cases) in 15 of the 53 countries in the Region. The highest numbers of affected people were reported in Romania (5562), Italy (5006) and Ukraine (4767). These countries have experienced a range of challenges in recent years, such as declines in overall routine immunization coverage, consistently low coverage among some marginalized groups, interruptions in vaccine supply or underperforming disease surveillance systems.

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Belgium, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Greece, Russia and Tajikistan all saw hundreds of cases, per the WHO report.

Measles is a potentially deadly virus easily prevented by the MMR vaccine, which also guards against mumps and rubella. According to the WHO, Romania, Italy, and Ukraine have all seen “declines in overall routine immunization coverage, consistently low coverage among some marginalized groups, interruptions in vaccine supply, or underperforming disease surveillance systems.”

Per the New York Times, many of the infections in Romania were among the Roma, who often fail to vaccinate children and are not quick to take the ill to hospitals. In Italy, 88 percent of the infected people had failed to get vaccinations, the Times wrote—right at the same time anti-vaccine sentiment there and across the continent is growing. Unwarranted skepticism about the safety and efficacy of vaccines is high throughout Europe in part due to the same kind of vaccine-autism conspiracy theories rife in the US, as well as teachings by some conservative Protestant churches.

As the Times wrote, national governments have begun instituting compulsory vaccination as a result:

The measles outbreaks have led some European countries to crack down. Laws were passed in France, Germany and Italy requiring that parents vaccinate their children or at least consult a doctor about doing so. Italy and Germany imposed fines of $600 to $3,000 for failing to comply.

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As the Verge noted, California has also restricted parents’ ability to claim personal belief as a reason for not vaccinating their children, though many parents were seemingly able to convince doctors to sign off on medical exemptions instead.

According to the Times, though progress in Europe is stalling the measles vaccine has been hugely successful, sharply reducing the 2.6 million worldwide annual deaths from the disease reported in the 1980s to less than 100,000 in 2016.

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[New York Times/The Verge]

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DISCUSSION

kevindelmotte
Kevin Delmotte

I’m “only” 40, from Belgium, and I’m from a time everyone, and really, every kid had measles. And it was NORMAL, and it’s not nearly as deadly as you all seem to believe (probably from reading stats from over a century ago). It’s not like.. tetanus, which is pretty serious if you get it.

Ultimately it’s a personal choice to get vaccinated, because it’s a very subjective decision: a probability of some problem to trade against another (yes, lower) probability of *another* problem, and you just can’t compare both problems other than subjectively.

Is vaccination a no-brainer for a government? Yes, certainly. It’s less deaths, plain & simple. But no, it’s not that simple, and for the individual, it’s not about just “death”, but also *how* you die.
People buy lotery tickets. Statistically, it doesn’t make sense. Individually, it totally does.

Now, *if* vaccination was about trading the probability of a certain disease for a lower probability of *the same* disease and absolutely no other risk then yes, it would be a no-brainer.
It’s undoubtly true that some people have died from vaccines, and it’s undoubtly true that the end result is still way in favor of vaccination. But really, it’s not about the death count, not for individuals.

Written by one of those rare survivors of measles...