EU commissioner for health and food safety Vytenis Andriukaitis spoke out against ‘anti-vaxers’ in Brussels last week, telling delegates an increasing reluctance to immunise against diseases is contributing to a “potential public health scandal.”
According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, 14,451 measles cases were reported to the European Surveillance System by 30 EU/EEA countries in 2017 – more than three times the number reported in 2016.
The EU on vaccine hesitancy
“Vaccine hesitancy refers to delay in acceptance or refusal of vaccines despite availability of vaccination services.
Vaccine hesitancy is complex and context specific varying across time, place and vaccines. It includes factors such as complacency, convenience and confidence.”
“The spread of unreliable, misleading and unscientific information is a real problem. It generates distrust in society and worst of all in the case of anti-vaccination, it leads to deaths,” he added.
Merck & Pfizer weigh in
Merck & Co. Inc – known as MSD outside of the US and Canada – makes a vaccine to immunise against measles, mumps, and rubella viruses, known as M-M-R II.
The US-headquartered firm told us it supports the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control’s view that immunisation is the only effective preventative measure against measles.
Merck & Co. “emphasises that increasing measles, mumps, and rubella – MMR – vaccination coverage remains the most effective way to help prevent and limit the size, duration, and spread of measles outbreaks,” spokesperson Pamela Eisele told us.
Further, the company said it is committed to working with public health authorities to improve measles vaccination coverage, with the aim of eliminating the virus.
While drugmaker Pfizer does not manufacture a measles vaccine, it does make vaccines to help protect against pneumococcal disease, tick-borne encephalitis, and various groups of meningitis.
Spokesperson Dervila Keane told us the firm believes vaccines save lives and are therefore an essential public health tool.
“As such, the company ardently supports increasing the appropriate use of vaccines to prevent illnesses which lead to significant morbidity and mortality worldwide
“Vaccines are most effective when the majority of an eligible population receives them,” she added.
US-based volunteer association Vaccination Liberation – which lobbies to “preserve our right to abstain” from immunisation – said it is a myth that vaccines are necessary, safe and effective.
Director Ingri Casel said the ‘anti-vaccine’ movement is gaining momentum, and adults and children who are disabled, chronically ill, or have died as a result of vaccination are contributing to the cause.