WHO concerned about global campaign of misinformation about vaccines

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The World Health Organisation is concerned about what it calls a “global campaign of misinformation and disinformation” about vaccines.

WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Gebhreyesus was speaking at the launch of a groundbreaking mRNA vaccine Technology Transfer Hub in Cape Town.

He claims that vaccine apprehension is not limited to Covid immunisations and is now impeding the company’s efforts to control other diseases.

A recent measles vaccination drive in Mitchells Plain, Western Cape, following an outbreak in the country with a number of laboratory-confirmed cases.

The highly contagious viral infection includes symptoms such as a runny nose, fever, and a tell-tale rash. Health authorities say in some cases, it can prove fatal.

The World Health Organisation says vaccine hesitancy, fuelled by disinformation campaigns is hampering its efforts in many of its global vaccination endevours, specifically in children.

“The sad part is that it’s not about hesitancy towards Covid vaccines, it is affecting our regular programmes. Children’s vaccination is affected and has declined in many countries significantly and this is the anti-vaxxers movement targeting Covid that has already gone beyond. And I think we must fight this together, but the misinformation, the disinformation is hurting.”

WHO says in some countries, scientists are being targeted with death threats. Ghebreyesus says, ” I think unless we fight back its impact will be really significant so behind the hesitancy, there are active campaigns like the anti-vaxxers, active campaigns, its not hesitancy by the individual, that comes, that’s actually what happened because this very strong campaign.”

The health department says while the numbers of Covid infections, hospitalisations and deaths in the country remain low, it’s not completely gone.

It says people are still getting infected every day in the country.

Minister of Health, Dr Joe Phaahla says, “What we envisage is that covid will remain an endemic infection, especially for those at high risk it’s going to remain for quite some time so as the DG of the WHO was saying, our main focus now is not the vaccination of the general population, but to focus on pregnant women, those with diabetes, other co-morbidities like heart disease, obesity and all those so that they can be taken care of to get more boosters and those who have not yet been vaccinated.”

UNICEF meanwhile says the COVID-19 pandemic has been a disaster for childhood immunization, setting the world back by more than a decade of progress.

It says it is now seeing the re-emergence of preventable diseases in parts of the world, which it has for decades fought to control.