Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 11 December 2019

Vaccination makes the UAE immune to a rising global trend of measles cases

Statistics prove that the nation's compulsory programme of childhood inoculation is working

Dengue is a mosquito-borne viral infection found in tropical countries worldwide.. AFP
Dengue is a mosquito-borne viral infection found in tropical countries worldwide.. AFP

In the century leading up to its eradication in 1980, which was the result of a worldwide vaccination campaign, smallpox killed 300 million people. Experts are now hopeful that measles will meet the same fate, given that the disease can be prevented almost entirely by vaccines. And yet, preliminary data released by the World Health Organisation on Monday paints a different picture. Cases of measles actually rose by 300 per cent globally in the first trimester of 2019, marking an increase for the second consecutive year. Measles is a highly contagious disease that spreads through the air and can be fatal, particularly in infants. Its proliferation, at a time when vaccines are widely available, is cause for enormous concern.

Europe alone has six times more measles cases than the eastern Mediterranean, a region that includes some of Asia’s poorest countries – such as Afghanistan and Pakistan – as well as war-torn Iraq, Syria and Yemen. This phenomenon can partly be attributed to dangerous anti-vaccine propaganda, manufactured and disseminated by conspiracy theorists to discourage parents from inoculating their children. Simply put, this increases the risk of preventable infection. The “anti-vaxxers” claim that vaccines cause autism in children, an allegation based on bogus research that has been debunked countless times by medical professionals. At a time when some countries lack the financial means for widespread vaccination, it is all the more baffling that parents in affluent countries would simply refuse inoculation and, thereby, put others at risk.

The UAE, however, seems to be largely immune to this dangerous trend. In 2015, the nation implemented a compulsory measles immunisation programme for children between one and 18 years old. And the UAE only recorded nine measles cases in the first three months of 2019, compared with 76 in the same period last year. This policy has made the nation a shining example for measles prevention in the region and far beyond. By combining astute health care policy with public awareness campaigns, the UAE has become a safer, healthier place – even as the tide is turning in other parts of the world.

Updated: April 17, 2019 06:43 PM

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