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Mobilizing Young People Against Anti-Vaxxers

In the fight for climate action or, in the US, gun control, youth movements are already changing mindsets and shaping political agendas. Now is the time to mobilize youth to overcome resistance to vaccination as well, so that we can leave diseases like measles in the past, where they belong.

BRUSSELS – Measles is back. Reported cases of the disease – which had virtually disappeared for decades – have spiked in Europe and the United States, with 110,000 deaths worldwide in 2017. Deliberately unvaccinated children are the main victims of this epidemic – and the primary cause. 

Anti-vaccine activism has been around as long as vaccination itself. But it has surged since 1998, when, in a landmark case of medical “fake news,” Andrew Wakefield and his co-authors published a paper in The Lancet, a leading medical journal,asserting that they had found a link between the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism.

A thorough investigation subsequently revealed that the paper was entirely bogus. Unfortunately, by the time The Lancet retracted the paper in 2010, it had breathed new life into the anti-vaccine movement, fueling rising mistrust of the MMR vaccine and declining vaccine uptake.