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Lawmakers tackle misinformation plots about vaccines

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By Shamard Charles, M.D.

As measles cases continue to increase across the United States, lawmakers met Wednesday to face the growing threat to public health.

The sometimes noisy hearing organized by the House Committee on Energy and Trade highlighted one of the main challenges: stopping the spread of conspiracy theories and misinformation about the vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella have contributed to vaccine hesitancy in many communities. Diana Colette, representative of D-Colo., Interrupted the hearing at least twice when members of the public, for and against vaccination, chanted speeches about vaccine safety.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health, acknowledged that there had been no effective fight against the anti-vaccine movement .

"Misinformation is a big problem," said Fauci. "The spread of misinformation that leads people to make bad choices, despite their good will, is a major factor in the problem we are discussing."

Since the beginning of the year, disease control and prevention centers have confirmed 159 measles cases in 10 states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, New York, Oregon, Texas, and Washington. The most alarming epidemic is in the Pacific Northwest, where 65 cases of measles occurred – more than 40% of cases in the United States. In January, Clark County Health officials declared a public health emergency. Almost all cases are unvaccinated children.

In 2000, measles was declared eliminated in the United States, a major victory for public health. Nationally, 91% of children under 3 are vaccinated against measles. But in some communities, the rate has decreased. In Clark County, Washington State, where the epidemic affects up to 65 cases, about 76% of kindergarten children are not vaccinated.

Dr. Nancy Messonnier, Director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, acknowledged that the immunization movement to fight misinformation campaigns was not robust enough, despite the CDC's efforts to provide field service providers with the most "scientifically accurate" information. lines. "

"The hesitation with regard to a vaccine is the result of misinformation and misunderstanding of the MMR vaccine," Messonier said.

The first dose of MMR vaccine is given to children aged 12 to 15 months. The second dose is given to a child aged 4 to 6 years.

"The vaccine is incredibly safe," said Fauci. "The only way to protect those who are not old enough to get vaccinated or immune suppressed is to be part of the immunity of their flock."

Group immunity occurs when enough people are vaccinated against an infectious disease to protect community members who are not.

"When the umbrella of herd immunity will rise, it will really be an imminent disaster."

The audience comes at a time when major social media platforms, YouTube and Pinterest, have announced efforts to curb the spread of anti-vaccine misinformation.

When this umbrella of herd immunity gets up, it's really an imminent disaster.

In the face of increasing pressure, YouTube announced this month a change of recommendation algorithm, stopping to suggest conspiracy videos. YouTube has also prevented some anti-vaccine videos from showing ads and earning money, and has begun to provide more information on the threat of vaccine hesitancy. a window under the anti-vaccine videos. Pinterest has blocked all vaccine research to stop misinformation, while the site offers a solution.

The lack of access

However, misinformation is not the only factor contributing to the growing number of vaccination hot spots in the United States. Inadequate access to vaccines in low- and middle-income communities remains a problem in the United States, and children from families without insurance are a disproportionate amount. of those who go without blows, Messonnier said. Religious and cultural beliefs also play an important role.

"We know that anti-vaccination hot spots tend to be located in more rural areas. The hotspots of immunization are also clustered in areas where people share the same convictions, "said Messonnier.

Heat map of non-medical county level exemptions in 2016-17.Olive et al / Baylor College of Medicine

As there is no cure, the only way to fight measles is to get vaccinated, health officials told the congressional committee. The measles vaccine is 97% effective when both doses are given.

"The vaccine has been so effective that parents are wondering if vaccines are even necessary and that because of our success in public health, fewer and fewer doctors are seeing the serious consequences of measles," he said. declared Messonnier.

"There is no cure for measles, but it is totally preventable by vaccination. The most important advice we can give parents to protect their children is to vaccinate your children, "said Fauci. "It's for the safety of your own child and a responsibility to your community. We all have the responsibility to be part of this umbrella of herd immunity. "

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