“One common idea would be that they’re all absolutely looney-tunes, crazy people wearing tinfoil hats and reading all these conspiracy theories on crazy blogs on the Internet,” said medical anthropologist Elisa Sobo. “And that is absolutely not the case.” Sobo talks about what she learned from interviewing families at a school with low vaccination rates in California. In related news, what Facebook is doing to cut down on vaccine conspiracies and a look at vaccinations abroad.
Distrust of vaccines may be almost as contagious as measles, according to medical anthropologist Elisa Sobo. More than 100 people have been infected with measles this year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Over 50 of those cases have occurred in southwest Washington state and northwest Oregon in an outbreak that led Washington Gov. Jay Inslee to declare a state of emergency on Jan. 25. Some public health officials blame the surge of cases on low vaccination rates for this highly infectious disease. (Gordon, 2/13)
As a disturbing number of measles outbreaks crop up across the United States, Facebook is facing challenges combating widespread misinformation about vaccinations on its platform, which has become a haven for the anti-vaccination movement. The World Health Organization recently named “vaccine hesitancy” as one of the biggest global health threats of 2019. But on Facebook, in public pages and private groups with tens of thousands of members, false information about vaccines — largely stemming from a debunked 1998 study that tied immunizations to autism — is rampant and tough to pin down. In the bubble of closed groups, users warn about alleged dangers of vaccinations, citing pseudoscience and conspiracy theories. (Telford, 2/13)
In early October, three cases of measles were confirmed in Antanarivo, the capital of Madagascar. The highly contagious virus quickly spread across the island nation; by the next month, thousands of cases had been confirmed. The crisis only grew from there. Madagascar has poor health-care infrastructure and a low vaccination rate. But public health experts say its dangerous measles outbreak still offers a warning for anti-vaccination campaigners in the United States, where a smaller-scale flare-up has led to more than 100 confirmed cases since the beginning of the year. (O’Grady, 2/13)
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