The World Health Organization (WHO) has released its annual roundup of the gravest threats to global health — and one of them is the growing resistance to vaccination, a threat the group listed alongside Ebola and air pollution.
"Vaccine hesitancy – the reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite the availability of vaccines – threatens to reverse progress made in tackling vaccine-preventable diseases," the group wrote. "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."
Fighting the ideas propagated by anti-vaxxers, which often hold — against nearly all available evidence — that vaccines are ineffective or harmful, is a complex problem. Many subscribe to conspiratorial worldviews, meaning that messages from traditional authority figures like doctors and public health researchers can be unsuccessful.
For now, the WHO urges nuance.
"The reasons why people choose not to vaccinate are complex; a vaccines advisory group to WHO identified complacency, inconvenience in accessing vaccines, and lack of confidence are key reasons underlying hesitancy," the group wrote, diplomatically. "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."
READ MORE: Ten threats to global health in 2019 [World Health Organization]
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