A child wears a protection mask on Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro. Xavier Donat (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
You shouldn’t just vaccinate your kid to keep him or her healthy, but because deciding not to affects young ones in countries where they don’t have access to vaccines or medicine. Several places in disparate parts of the globe are experiencing measles outbreaks, among other diseases, fueled by Western “vaccine denialism.”
Brazil, for example, is suffering the consequences of anti-vaxxers’ selfish actions, despite national efforts to diminish the spread of infectious diseases. With the World Cup and Olympics just around the corner (when myriad tourists will flood Brazilian cities) the risks are starting to cause alarm bells to go off in the South American country.
As The Guardian columnist Jill Filipovic notes, the ignorance involved in deciding not to immunize your offspring is not a “First World Problem”; the mistakes of the West affect the rest of the globe, so it’s time to wake up and smell the science.
Brazil’s immunization program is one of the most impressive in the world. The government makes most of its own vaccines in the country and distributes them cheaply and universally, which led to a steep decline in infant mortality and deaths from infectious diseases after the national vaccination program started in the 1970s – one chart illustrating polio infection rates shows a complete drop-off a few years after national immunization campaigns. Now, though, Brazil is seeing small outbreaks of diseases like measles. But they aren’t homegrown – they’re reportedly coming in from Europe and the United States, thanks to anti-vaxxers.
In many ways, Brazil is a model for how national vaccination programs can work, and how vaccines can accelerate a country’s development, health and growth. The country’s implementation of widespread affordable vaccinations, coupled with an expanding public health system, caused infant mortality to plummet and contributed to a higher standard of living, a healthier populace and a more robust economy. But today, Brazilian public health officials are newly concerned that some of the richest, most developed nations on the planet threaten their success…
The most frightening impact of vaccine denialism is the simple fact that when we are able to cross borders with ease and access information from around the globe, it’s much easer to spread both deadly diseases and bad ideas.
For Stephen Colbert’s take on the rise of “preventable diseases” in America, watch his Monday bit on “The Colbert Report” and his interview with Dr. Paul Offit, the director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, “who’s here to tell us we’re all going to die.”
—Posted by Natasha Hakimi Zapata
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