Print Edition - 2017-05-03 | Oped
Populism, politics, measles
- A serious outbreak of measles in Italy could be the result of a drop-off in vaccinations
May 3, 2017-
One of the tragedies of these post-truth times is that the lies, conspiracy theories and illusions spread by social media and populist politicians can be downright dangerous. The denial of human responsibility for climate change is one obvious example; another is opposition to vaccination. A serious outbreak of measles in Italy and in some other European countries could well be the result of a drop-off in vaccinations caused by utterly misguided and discredited claims about their dangers. Vaccines are among the greatest achievements of medical science, an easily and safely administered defense against once common and often deadly diseases. Yet fear of vaccines has spread over the past two decades. To skeptics, the measles outbreak in Italy should sound a piercing alarm. Of those stricken, 88 percent had not been vaccinated. Yet studies show that 97 percent of people who receive the recommended two doses of MMR vaccine are fully protected. M5S may not be responsible for the outbreak, since vaccine skepticism predates the party’s rise. Yet the percentage of 2-year-olds given vaccinations has steadily fallen in recent years. Combating vaccine skepticism is not easy. The Italian measles outbreak, unfortunate as it is, does give health authorities an opportunity to strengthen their case by pointing to concrete evidence of what inevitably follows when vaccinations drop off.
Published: 03-05-2017 07:59