WHO president addresses the anti-vaccine movement

Anti-vaccine views have made an impact on vaccine rates both locally and around the world.

Vaccine development in the United States has had a rocky history.  As far back as the 1800’s the concept of vaccinations has been met with both acceptance and reluctance from many.  Ground breaking formulations were met with jeers and bore the brunt of many jokes before their benefits and effectiveness were ever realized.  A lack of quality control and severe reactions to some vaccines only drove the public further into their shells and reinforced fears about lining up for a shot.

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Health officials were forced to begin discussing vaccines in a town hall format–traveling across the country to educate the public and increase compliance with new vaccine programs.  Virtually the only method of success, education and answering skeptical men and women was key to reassuring the public and building trust.  As a result, vaccines became a more widely accepted practice and has been established as a normal and expected part of disease prevention in this country.

Despite the many who came to accept and appreciate disease prevention through vaccination, there were still the lingering fears of a few.  The ones who never rolled up a sleeve–and never allowed their children to either.  For many different reasons the fear surrounding vaccination has overruled their benefits, resulting in what is called the “anti-vaccine sentiment.”

The movement to refuse vaccines has become significant enough to find itself front and center at the most recent meeting of the World Health Organization.  Citing the difficulties created by the refusal to be vaccinated, WHO Director-General Margaret Cho discussed the issue at hand.  Fears of pandemic diseases like H1N1 flu have forced health officials to face the fact that not everyone wants or believes in vaccines.  With a goal of 90% vaccination in populations to prevent the spread of disease, trying to get enough people out for vaccines has been a monumental task.

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“In some cases, persuading the public to seek vaccination has become even more problematic than during the pandemic. As documented in the report on immunization, the problem of public mistrust extends well beyond influenza vaccines.”  said Cho in her opening remarks to the Organization.

Calling the general public’s vaccine fears “unfounded,” Cho discussed how the WHO has been very successful in some regions of the world and yet failed to reach their goals in other areas.  Blaming anti-vaccine movements and lack of education on lower than expected numbers and a few failed goals.  The WHO is responsible for ensuring overall health and promoting wellness around the world.  Cho said in her speech that the Organization needs to  make changes to help move the public to a more positive mindset, and called the group “over-extended.”

“WHO needs to change at the administrative, budgetary, and programmatic levels. We do not need to change the Constitution, but we do need to undergo some far-reaching reforms.”

Trying to undo years of vaccine fears–whether founded or unfounded is a challenging task.  Too many side effects, reactions and some faulty medical research have done damage so deep it may never be reversed.

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