Many parents question the need for routine vaccinations for their little ones. Adults are also getting less vaccinatedeven with immunizations that have a long history of safety.
The trend comes amid a wave of misinformation about Covid-19 and the vaccines that have helped curb deaths from the pandemic. The politicization of these vaccines has reaffirmed the movement against themwhich has contributed to the decline in doses administered against measles, polio and other dangerous diseases.
“They ask if it’s really necessary, or if it can be given later,” says Jason Terk, a spokesman for the American Academy of Pediatrics. “This is not the majority of parents, but we are seeing a higher number,” adds Terk.
Routine immunization rates fall and concerns about disease resurgence that had been eradicated in many parts of the world.
In the United States, the percentage of preschool children who have the recommended immunizations has dropped one point to 94% during the 2020-2021 school year, which means that nearly 35,000 children are not vaccinated.
“It seems that the origin is in the rejection of vaccination against covid-19 and the increased mistrust of vaccines and the organisms we have relied on to keep us healthy,” says Terk.
Changes have been seen in some states, especially during the peak of the pandemic: there has been a 47% decline in immunization rates in Texas in five-month-olds and a 58% decline in 16-month-olds among 2019 and 2020.
scientific publication vaccine collects an investigation that affirms that this decrease is the result of the confinement restrictions and vaccine exemptionbut also of “an aggressive anti-vaccine movement in Texas.”
Washington state reported a 13% drop in childhood immunization rates compared to pre-pandemic levels, and Michigan’s infant immunization rate fell last year to 69.9%, the lowest in the decade.
Vaccination points against Covid-19 in Quito, Guayaquil, Durán and Samborondón
Adult and adolescent inoculation rates also fell for vaccines against diseases such as the flu, hepatitis, measles, tetanus, or shinglesaccording to the health consultant Avalere, which analyzes the claims made against insurance companies.
This has led to the loss of approximately 37 million vaccine doses from January 2020 to July 2021 in adults and children seven years and older, according to research by Avalere.
Social networks have contributed to the creation of a coalition that includes anti-vaccines, libertarians and conservative political figures. Disinformation actors from Russia and elsewhere have amplified these segments, says David Broniatowski, a professor at George Washington University and associate director of the Institute for Data, Democracy, and Policy.
“People have opposed vaccines for as long as they’ve existed, but they’ve gotten more sophisticated in the last 10 years and a good part of it is due to the ability to organize from the links forged in social networks”, explains Broniatowski.
“One of the main changes we have seen is a shift in the conception of vaccination per se from a health issue to a political issue of civil rights,” he adds.
Regarding the conspiracy theories that have emerged during the pandemic, a 2021 YouGov poll found that 28% of Americans and a significant number of people in other countries believe that the truth about the harmful effects of vaccines is being “deliberately concealing”.
A 2018 report with Broniatowski for the American Journal of Public Health found that Russian trolls amplified anti-vaccine activity on Twitter from 2014 to 2017 as part of a strategy to promote disagreement and undermine trust in the health system.
An investigation by the Center for European Policy Analysis showed that both China and Russia have promoted disinformation regarding the covid-19 vaccine, in part to show that Western governments are incompetent and cannot be trusted.
The problem is also increasing globally. A United Nations report last year noted that 23 million children worldwide did not follow a routine immunization in 2020. In the Americas region, the percentage of fully inoculated children fell to 82% compared to 91% in 2016 due to factors including underfunding, misinformation about vaccines, and instability.
All of this is likely to lead to further health risks down the road with diseases that have mostly been contained. (YO)