Vaccine misinformation fuels measles resurgence in US

Vaccine misinformation fuels measles resurgence in US

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58 new measles cases reported by 17 jurisdictions, raising fears of comeback of the disease that was declared eliminated from the US 24 years ago.  

In 2000, measles was declared eliminated from the United States of America. However, recent trends show a resurgence of measles cases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated that as of March 14, 2024, a total of 58 measles cases were reported by 17 jurisdictions. 

According to experts, the recent rise in measles cases in the US is linked to growing vaccine-related misinformation, lower than ideal vaccination rates, and unvaccinated travellers. The 58 measles cases were reported from Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York City, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), a US-based health policy research and news organisation, this resurgence can largely be attributed to a decline in childhood vaccinations during the COVID-19 pandemic from 2020 to 2022. While health misinformation and disinformation long preceded the pandemic, the pervasiveness of false and inaccurate information about COVID-19 and vaccines has renewed the focus on the role misinformation can play in distorting public health policy debates and impacting the health choices individuals make.

As per the KFF Health Misinformation Tracking Poll, responding to the false claim that “The measles vaccine is more dangerous than the disease itself”, a majority expressed at least some uncertainty in their beliefs. More than half of the respondents said that the claim is either “probably false” (41%) or “probably true” (16%). Only 3% said that it is “definitely true”, while 38% were confident that the claim is “definitely false.”

Earlier in January 2024, the CDC had alerted clinicians to be on the lookout for measles after 23 cases were reported across the nation. Most cases were identified in children and adolescents, who had not been vaccinated against measles.

Misinformation about COVID vaccination has changed people’s perceptions of the need to get vaccinated against other diseases, like measles, and may leave more long-lasting effects on public health, warn experts. 

Measles is a highly contagious disease caused by a virus. It spreads easily when an infected person breathes, coughs or sneezes. It can cause severe disease, complications, and even death.

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