Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

[op-ed snap] Staggering spread: On vaccines


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Vaccine Hesitancy


The reported measles cases decreased by 59% globally, from 2000 to 2018. At the same time, there has been a spike since 2016. 

Global Measles cases

  • Increase in numbers – There were over 1,32,000 reported cases in 2016. The numbers shot up to over 3,53,000 in 2018. 
  • More than doubled – the numbers in 2018 were more than double the previous year, the numbers in 2019 have already surpassed those of 2018. 
  • By mid-November 2019, over 4,00,000 cases were reported globally. 
  • Cases and deaths – WHO and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated the number of measles cases and deaths. Based on an updated estimation model, there have been nearly 10 million cases and over 1,42,000 measles deaths in 2018. 
  • Congo – The situation worsened in Congo, with a nearly four-fold increase in cases (from 65,000 in 2018 to 2,50,000 in 2019) and over 5,100 deaths. 

Vaccine Hesitancy

  • Vaccine hesitancy has been highlighted for the staggering spread in cases globally. 
  • The case of Congo – In DR Congo, there is low institutional trust, misinformation, vaccine shortage and even attacks on health-care centers and workers leading to the spread of both measles and Ebola. 
  • Other cases of VH  – The Philippines and the small Pacific island of Samoa serve are textbook cases of the sudden emergence of vaccine hesitancy. 
  • Dengue vaccine – Mass immunization using a newly approved dengue vaccine in the Philippines, before the risks were reported by the manufacturer, shattered public trust in vaccines. Low vaccine coverage led to measles and polio outbreaks.
  • Samoa – In Samoa, an error in preparing the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) injection led to the death of two infants. Fear-mongering led to a fall in vaccine uptake, leading to an outbreak of measles. 
  • Religion – In many European countries and the U.S., vaccine hesitancy has been on religious grounds and primarily due to anti-vaccination campaigns spreading fake news about vaccine safety. 

Countering Vaccine Hesitancy

  • Mandatory – About a dozen European countries have introduced laws making vaccination mandatory. 
  • New York City introduced such a law when the U.S. nearly lost its measles elimination status. 
  • Education is the key – Such laws may prove counterproductive in the long run. The only way to increase vaccine uptake is by educating the public.
  • India – 2.3 million children are not vaccinated against measles last year. India has much to do to protect its young citizens.
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