Skeptics of vaccines seemed condemned to be an extravagant minority after centuries in which they stopped lethal epidemics, but the anti-vaccum movement has resurfaced when least expected, encouraged by the spreading of hoaxes in social networks that some politicians believe and champion.
The large increase this year in measles cases in the world, from 30% to 173,000 cases in 2018 according to the World Health Organization, gives a warning signal about the negative effects of this movement, reborn in the last 20 years and that for the WHO is key in the reappearance of the disease in countries of the West where it was considered a thing of the past, like Germany or Italy.
Only in the first six months of this year there were 41,000 cases in Europe, more than the 24,000 recorded in 2017, and 17 deaths from a disease that, despite its low level of mortality, can cause chronic consequences to those who suffer from it, as blindness.
The rise of these cases can not be attributed only to the anti-vaccines movement, but coincides in time with this, and its impact on celebrities and people with the ability to influence, in an idyllic moment for the spread of rumors through social networks and the arrival of politicians who want to take advantage of it.
Arguments already refuted from anti-vaccines, as they produce autism or contain levels of mercury harmful to health, have produced for example that in Romania the number of children inoculated has dropped from 90 to 80% in just five years, and that measles will cause there in 2016 and 2017 about thirty deaths.
In Romania it went from 15 infections declared in 2015 to more than 9,000 between 2016 and 2017, and similar situations could reach nearby countries such as Italy, where Vice President Matteo Salvini is a recognized vaccum skeptic and the government tries to curb laws that want force to inoculate all minors.
Despite the alarming increase in cases of measles in the transalpine country, members of the Government remain reluctant to pursue a legal initiative that would require the parents of each child to present official certificates of their vaccination in order to enroll them.
In Spain, where the WHO considers that diseases such as measles are completely eradicated for now -except in isolated cases from outside- worries, nevertheless, that 3% of children whose parents do not take them to vaccinate for religious or ideological reasons, which is equivalent to 80,000 and 150,000 minors.
In the United States, President Donald Trump mentioned in his controversial election campaign the alleged relationship between vaccines and autism, and in the social networks of the country many promoters of these ideas are "bots" (malicious codes) Russian with the aim of destabilizing, according to he was defending a report from the American Journal of Public Health.
Skepticism towards vaccines was born almost with the beginning of the application of these in the West in the eighteenth century, when the inoculation campaigns initiated by the father of immunology, Edward Jenner, were not adequately controlled nor were the vaccinated properly isolated. which produced adverse results.
The improvement of vaccination techniques, especially in the twentieth century, effectively eradicated or controlled once-highly contagious and sometimes deadly diseases such as smallpox, tetanus, whooping cough, diphtheria, polio, rubella or the mumps, reducing the arguments of the anti-vaccines.
But the disappearance of these diseases in some developed countries produced the same abandonment of vaccination campaigns with negative results, as happened in Sweden, where 60% of the children had whooping cough between 1979 and 1996, period in which the authorities decided to stop inoculate children against her.
And skepticism was revived in 1998 following the publication of an article by British physician Andrew Wakefield in the journal The Lancet that established a relationship between autism and the MMR vaccine (measles-mumps-rubella).
The same publication refuted the article to consider it fraudulent, but did not do so until 2011, and the ideas of Wakefield – who left the United Kingdom to live in the US, where their ideas had greater support – are rescued from time to time by politicians and users social networks.
Figures provided by WHO that speak of 40 million lives saved from smallpox, or 16 million people free of the paralysis that polio creates, do not convince skeptics of all political signs, from libertarians who believe in the right not to be vaccinated to leftists who believe that the inoculations are just a big business of pharmaceutical giants.
Antonio Broto / Efe