“PUBLIC HEALTH TIME BOMB” TICKS AS ANTI-VAXXING MOVEMENT GROWS

Written by Chu Yao Quan

The Fight Over the Time Bomb

The resurgence of measles over the last few years in many Western societies has been alarming. In 2016, 5,273 cases of measles were reported, but that number ballooned to 83,540 cases in 2018, with eight European countries reporting at least 2,000 cases of measles. In just the first two months of 2019, approximately 34,300 cases have been reported. Meanwhile, the US is experiencing its biggest measles outbreak in 27 years. This outbreak is attributed to misinformation about vaccines spread by right-wing supporters and Russian trolls on social media platforms, who aim to sow discord at their targets.

One such online sentiment includes the belief that the measles vaccine contributes to autism, among many other side effects, but nationwide studies have proven them wrong. The general public remain unconvinced, as nearly 1 in 10 households in the UK refrain from administering measles vaccine to their children for fear of unwanted side effects, while only 40% of Eastern Europeans believe vaccines are safe. 

Actions have been taken to tackle the spread of misinformation online. On Twitter UK, searches related to vaccinations now return tweets from credible agencies such as the National Health Service (NHS). Youtube has also ‘demonetised’ anti-vaccination content, preventing anti-vaxx proponents from gaining advertiser revenue. 

Over in Singapore

Measles are largely unheard of in Singapore, partly due to a low level of scepticism towards the measles vaccine. However, Singapore is facing its own viral threat. On 13 September, the National Environment Agency (NEA) confirmed another three cases of locally transmitted Zika virus and Singapore’s first Zika cluster of 2019 near Serangoon Gardens. They depict the rising severity of the Zika virus in Singapore, where nine deaths and 11,490 cases have been reported. Although no vaccines have been approved for clinical use, a number of vaccines are currently undergoing clinical trials. But when these vaccines become available, Singaporeans ought to look past the misinformation and trust local health agencies for successful adoption of the vaccine.

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