Vaccines: Setbacks and Global Immunization Efforts
Vaccines are considered a great win against numerous viral diseases as these help in creating antibodies in people to help them fight against deadly viruses. Organizations like WHO and UNICEF have made huge efforts in achieving Global Immunization so that people all around the globe can lead healthy life. Every decade, Immunization is planned and revisions are made in it so that it can be carried out efficiently and more people can benefit from it. However, there are people known as anti-vaxxers, who stand against vaccines as they believe that it is against their religion and rights, believing that vaccines are specifically made to cause harm and control the general public. They refuse to get vaccinated and as a result, many virus outbreaks (like measles) that had been contained are occurring again. Other setbacks in Global Immunization are war and political instability. This essay will mainly analyze the anti-vaccine movement; provide counter-argument backed with research to refute these opinions in a respectful manner, lightly brush upon war and political unrest and their effects on Global Immunization.
Opposition against vaccinations has been around from the time the first vaccine was produced. However in recent years, there has been an increase in this opposition and now these people are identified as Anti-Vaxxers. They believe that vaccines go against their religious teachings as many believe God to be the source of all healing and miracles. This is a very dangerous stance to have, as many have died due to this belief but if they had been properly educated that vaccines are not against their faith, their lives could have been saved. Others consider it their right to refuse vaccines as they are free individuals who know what is good for them. Since 2009, some states in the US provide Nonmedical Exemption (NME) to people who have reservations against vaccines due to religious or philosophical beliefs. This has caused an increase in vaccine-preventable diseases and put others in danger as well. According to 2015’s “National Immunization Survey”, only 72.2% of children between the ages of 19 to 35 months are fully vaccinated. The rise in NMEs has also caused a rise in virus-preventable diseases, as data collected from areas with high NMEs also had high virus outbreaks, making these places high-risk for everyone, especially immune-compromised people. Due to this inadequate immunization, diseases like measles and whooping cough that had been eliminated in the USA in 2000 have returned back (Olive et al., 2018).
The Anti-vaccine problem unfortunately is not contained in the United States alone; it is a global opposition and tends to get in the way of the Global Immunization Plan every year. In developing countries where there are closely knit communities, it is often the case that the beliefs of one community member are the same as the others in that community. So the places where religion is seen as the ultimate answer to every problem, strong opposition to vaccination is observed. This opposition, however, can be tackled by educating the religious leaders of those communities and allowing them to convey the benefits of the vaccines through the eyes of religion. This has helped the organizations like Gavi, Vaccine Alliance, WHO and UNICEF to reach their Global immunization goals more effectively. It has been recorded in GBD 2017 that the death rate caused by measles and tetanus has decreased by almost half in these countries (Hotez, 2019).
In 2020, Global Vaccine Action Plan 2011-2020 concluded and plans for the coming decade were devised. In the 2011-2020 plan, many goals were accomplished but three main setbacks were also identified, which are war, political instability, and the anti-vaccine movement. War and political unrest have always been a big hurdle in the way of Global Immunization. Warring countries in the Middle East and Central Asia have interrupted vaccine plans numerous times leading to a resurgence of several vaccine-preventable diseases like measles, malaria, and NTDs. Political unrest in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Venezuela due to government collapse has hindered the efforts of vaccination against Ebola which is an extremely deadly virus and needs to be contained. The outbreaks in these countries are not only dangerous for them but are also spreading to the neighboring countries. These setbacks are being addressed in the new plan and steps to employ vaccine diplomacy are being taken as well. The supply of vaccines is being increased so that more individuals may receive the vaccines and for that sustainable investment resources are being considered, so the supply and demand can be dealt adequately (Nnaji et al., 2020).
Many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa faced a low supply of vaccines in previous years and this weak immunization strategy became a hurdle in containing many vaccine-preventable diseases. This has caused Ebola outbreak numerous times making Africa the most vulnerable continent in the world in regards to health. Efforts have been made to overcome this problem and find a sustainable supply and demand model so that vaccination efforts can be effective in these countries. With these efforts, immunization has drastically improved in Africa (Vouking et al., 2019).
Although developed countries seldom face the threat of war or political unrest, there are still anti-vaxxers that are causing years of progress in immunization to unravel. To deal with this problem many countries are considering putting a fine on the individuals that refuse to get vaccinated. This charge would be based on causing harm to others as there have many virus outbreaks. This stance is being supported by many pro-vaxxers as this will ensure the safety of everyone (Belluz, 2017).
In conclusion, Global Immunization is a great effort against deadly viruses, and when achieved, it will be one of the greatest milestones in human history but many global problems like war, political instability, and anti-vaccine movement have been hindering the progress and in some cases undoing it. However, the organizations involved in immunization efforts are taking further and improved steps to overcome these problems and are hopeful that these will be beneficial for everyone.
Belluz, J. (2017, August 3). The global crackdown on parents who refuse vaccines for their kids is on. Vox. https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2017/8/3/16069204/vaccine-fines-measles-outbreaks-europe-australia
Hotez, P. J. (2019). Immunizations and vaccines: A decade of successes and reversals, and a call for ‘vaccine diplomacy.’ International Health, 11(5), 331–333. https://doi.org/10.1093/inthealth/ihz024
Nnaji, C. A., Owoyemi, A. J., Amaechi, U. A., Wiyeh, A. B., Ndwandwe, D. E., & Wiysonge, C. S. (2020). Taking stock of global immunisation coverage progress: The gains, the losses and the journey ahead. International Health, ihz120. https://doi.org/10.1093/inthealth/ihz120
Olive, J. K., Hotez, P. J., Damania, A., & Nolan, M. S. (2018). The state of the antivaccine movement in the United States: A focused examination of nonmedical exemptions in states and counties. PLOS Medicine, 15(6), e1002578. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1002578
Vouking, M. Z., Mengue, C. M. A., Yauba, S., Edengue, J. M., Dicko, M., Dicko, H. M., & Wiysonge, C. S. (2019). Interventions to increase the distribution of vaccines in Sub-Saharan Africa: A scoping review. The Pan African Medical Journal, 32, 14. https://doi.org/10.11604/pamj.2019.32.14.17225