Flu shots sign at the Farmers Market in Winter Park.

Paul Bois

The already vilified anti-vaxxer community received another round of vilification this week when the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the movement a global threat, reports USA Today.

In a report released on Tuesday, the WHO described “vaccine hesitancy” as “the reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite the availability of vaccines.” The anti-vaxxer phenomenon is now among the organization’s top global threats for the year.

Vaccine hesitancy – the reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite the availability of vaccines – threatens to reverse progress made in tackling vaccine-preventable diseases. Vaccination is one of the most cost-effective ways of avoiding disease – it currently prevents 2-3 million deaths a year, and a further 1.5 million could be avoided if global coverage of vaccinations improved.

Measles, for example, has seen a 30% increase in cases globally. The reasons for this rise are complex, and not all of these cases are due to vaccine hesitancy. However, some countries that were close to eliminating the disease have seen a resurgence.

The report goes on to say that anti-vaxxers reject vaccinations for a variety of complex reasons, including complacency, inconvenience in accessing vaccines, and lack of confidence.

“Health workers, especially those in communities, remain the most trusted advisor and influencer of vaccination decisions, and they must be supported to provide trusted, credible information on vaccines,” reads the report.

The WHO concludes its report by declaring it will seek to “eliminate cervical cancer worldwide by increasing coverage of the HPV vaccine” along with stopping the “transmission of wild poliovirus” in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“Last year, less than 30 cases were reported in both countries,” the report concludes. “WHO and partners are committed to supporting these countries to vaccinate every last child to eradicate this crippling disease for good.”

USA Today reports that the number of unvaccinated young children in the U.S. has steadily increased since 2001, with multiple parents claiming that vaccines are linked to autism. The CDC, however, claims that vaccines have no link to autism whatsoever. Amanda Cohn, a senior adviser for vaccines for the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said last year that children without health insurance make up the bulk of unvaccinated youth.

“While we know parental choice clearly plays a role, we also see in this report that access does seem to be an issue,” Cohn said in a statement.

Aside from anti-vaxxers, the World Health Organization also declared Air Pollution and Climate Change a threat to global health in 2019.

“This year, the United Nations Climate Summit in September will aim to strengthen climate action and ambition worldwide,” reads the report. “Even if all the commitments made by countries for the Paris Agreement are achieved, the world is still on a course to warm by more than 3°C this century.”

Noncommunicable diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, were also deemed a threat to global health the WHO.

“The rise of these diseases has been driven by five major risk factors: tobacco use, physical inactivity, the harmful use of alcohol, unhealthy diets and air pollution,” the report says. “These risk factors also exacerbate mental health issues, that may originate from an early age.”

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