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Immunization Is the Best Weapon Against Poverty

Anti-vaxxers’ irresponsible misinformation ignores those with the most to lose by not vaccinating: the poorest and most vulnerable, who risk dying or sliding into medical impoverishment if they or their loved ones get sick. For much of the world’s population, vaccination means inoculation against poverty.

GENEVA – A recent poll found that one in three Americans would not be willing to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, while anti-vaxxers have reportedly gained at least 7.8 million new social media followers since 2019. Like the pandemic itself, anti-vax misinformation and rumors know no borders. The biggest tragedy is that the resulting vaccine hesitancy threatens to hurt poor people the most.

The poor have already been hit hardest by the pandemic, losing lives, livelihoods, and access to nutrition and health care. Increasing numbers of women and children from marginalized populations are falling outside the reach of public services – as reflected in the increased incidence of gender-based violence, the rise in teenage pregnancies, and the decline in skilled birth attendance. One million more children could die in the next six months because of the pandemic’s knock-on effects, with the bulk of these deaths occurring among the poor.

Vaccines protect up to three million lives every year. That is because they are often the first and only health service to reach poor households. People living in squalid conditions bereft of basic sanitation, safe drinking water, hygiene, cleansing agents, and adequate nutrition are most at risk of contracting and dying from vaccine-preventable diseases. And when ill, they often lack the financial means to access health care. Timely protection with vaccines, which keep diseases in poor communities at bay and reduce preventable child deaths, is therefore their best bet for survival.