Measles cases are on the rise globally, including in wealthy nations such as the United States and Germany, where some parents shun life-saving vaccines due to false theories suggesting links between childhood immunizations and autism. In Madagascar, one of the world’s poorest countries, parents are desperate to vaccinate their children, many trudging for miles to get to clinics for shots. But there are not enough vaccines. Over 1,000 people, mostly children, have died from measles in Madagascar since October.
During 2000 to 2017, the WHO estimates that widespread use of measles vaccinations prevented 21.1 million deaths – making the shots one of what the United Nations’ health agency calls the “best buys in public health.” Yet misinformation is knocking confidence in the safety of vaccinations and has jeopardized progress against measles – allowing the disease to gain a hold again in places where it was considered almost beaten. Europe last year saw its highest level of measles cases in a decade, and in January, the WHO named “vaccine hesitancy” – the reluctance or refusal to vaccinate – as one of the top ten global health threats for 2019.