An Epidemic: Measles Or Misinformation?

Fighting misinformation over measles outbreakPhoto By: Julien Harneis/Flickr

2018 was the year when people started asking the question: ‘should I get my child vaccinated?’ Most people answered yes, and some responded no. People started arguing what was right and which wasn’t. Thus, the birth of the anti-vaxxers movement.

But before that, nobody heard much about measles. It utterly seemed that the threat has long receded; only because most of the population was vaccinated. The World Health Organization was well on its way to completely eradicating measles back in 2017 until numbers started climbing again due to confusion and fear.

Measles is a virus that commonly infects children. It is easily transmitted via coughing and sneezing of an infected person and primarily attacks the lungs.

Measles is a tricky virus to get around with because its symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, headaches, and rashes can appear as non-life-threatening.

Yes, the anti-vaxxers community is right. Eventually, our body’s immune system does fight back and gets rid of the virus. Hoorah, we are now immune. That is all true, only if you survive.

But, measles is a sophisticated virus that weakens the immune system so much before it can muster the energy it needs to fight back and often leads to pneumonia, the most common way to die from the infection.

WHO reports that in 2017, there were 110,000 measles deaths globally, mostly among children under the age of five. Given that there’s already an 80% drop in expected deaths. Moreover, during 2000-2017, measles vaccination prevented an estimated 21.1 million deaths; all thanks to their vaccination efforts.

Measles-involved deaths are entirely unnecessary in today’s generation. The measles vaccine has been in use for over 50 years. It is safe, effective and inexpensive. It costs approximately one US dollar to immunize a child against measles.

But, where did they go wrong? The answer is public misinformation.

As global cases for measles soar across the globe, so does misinformation. Facebook wasn’t around when measles was a big deal back in the days when people didn’t know what to do. They listened to their physicians and took their vaccinations.

Unlike today, everyone—the good and the bad—is given a voice through social media; a voice not used responsibly could cause countless deaths.

This issue made Facebook to finally take action and try to mitigate false information that is widespread across its platform.

Facebook says that it will start targeting groups and pages that spread anti-vaxx information and restrict them from popping up in people’s news feeds and recommendations.

“These Groups and Pages will not be included in recommendations or predictions when you type into Search,” Monika Bickert, Facebook’s vice president of global policy management, said in a statement. She added that when ads that include misinformation about vaccinations are found, “we will reject them.” Ad accounts that continue to violate company policies may even be disabled.

Bickert said the company is also “exploring ways to share educational information about vaccines,” possibly by adding educational information to inaccurate posts.

Moreover, the Explore and hashtag pages of Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, also will not show or recommend content that contains anti-vaccination messages. The effort is company-wide and will be rolled out in the next few weeks.

If you think about it, measles is a reasonably easy game to win. You’ll only need to take something, and you’ve defeated the enemy. However, if other people tell you otherwise, then you’ll quickly lose the game.

When it concerns overall health, it’s always much better to listen to medical professionals dedicated to ensuring your well-being than to a person from Facebook who’s backed with nothing but conspiracies and gossip.

Today, most of the human population can easily receive vaccinations. However, there’s a small population who, unfortunately, cannot; they’re either too young, undergoing chemotherapy, has HIV infection, and are allergic to the vaccine. These small percentage of people are immunocompromised, that is why they rely on the rest of the population to take care of the virus for them.

If you’re reading this, then most likely you live privileged enough to access the internet from a country privileged enough to offer easy access to vaccines. Don’t let blind ignorance endanger your child’s health. Vaccinate.

About the Author

Sean Louis Salazar
A communications graduate writing about the latest trends and news!

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