Disease has always been the biggest killer on the planet. History is marred by thousands of epidemics and pandemics, leading humans to urgently seek cures and vaccinations. Huge steps have been made in the past few centuries to ensure the safety of future generations, but, in recent years, humans seem to have forgotten and taken this general safety for granted. The anti-vaccination crowd has become a loud minority, condemning Western medicine. But, the anti-vax movement is not a new one; when the first widespread vaccination came out—for smallpox in 1798—there was major opposition because people believed it turned you into a cow.
While cases of rare diseases still appeared before the anti-vax movement picked up speed, new cases have skyrocketed. In 2010, there were two major cases of measles and whooping cough outbreaks, one within a church community that advocated abstaining from vaccinations, and the other was due to parents abstaining from the whooping cough vaccine, leading to 980 whooping cough cases in San Diego county alone.
Recently, Costa Rica had an outbreak of measles, due to a young, unvaccinated French tourist reintroducing the disease. Before this, the country has been measles-free for five years, which is no small task. But, while Costa Rica has a strong healthcare system, other countries in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East are not as lucky. An outbreak like this one could cause thousands of deaths and become increasingly difficult to control and contain. For countries outside the United States with weaker healthcare systems, the anti-vax movement spells disaster.
In 2017 in Pakistan, there were 14,246 suspected cases of chickenpox and 21 deaths. Extremist groups in the area have made it nearly impossible for aid workers to give treatments to the general public, which has led to an increase in vaccinable diseases. Pakistan’s healthcare system is weak and getting weaker with militant groups like ISIS and the Taliban fighting for control, as well as other world powers entering the mix. This makes it difficult for the country to get back on their feet to fight against the various diseases infecting their people, while showing the importance of vaccinations.
These outbreaks are not exclusive to poorer regions though: in France, Greece, and Italy cases of the measles have been soaring in the past few years. As of 2018, these cases killed at least 37 people in Europe, and over 41,000 people have been infected. These numbers have shocked WHO researchers. A decrease in general immunizations and coverage within these countries is to blame.
Without vaccinations, these numbers will only continue to rise and more previously eradicated diseases will continue to wreak havoc on present and future generations.