GENEVA, Switzerland — The anti-vaccine movement is now one of the top 10 threats to global health, the World Health Organization reports.
Vaccine hesitancy was listed alongside major viruses like HIV and Ebola as the 10 issues that will demand attention from WHO and health partners in 2019.
According to the report, diseases like measles have seen a 30 percent increase in cases globally, with countries that were close to eliminating the disease through vaccination seeing a resurgence.
Most recently, a chickenpox outbreak at a school in North Carolina became the state's largest since a vaccine for the virus became available 20 years ago. The school had high vaccination religious exemption rates.
While there are several reasons for vaccine refusal or reluctance, a vaccines advisory group to WHO identified complacency, inconvenience in accessing vaccines, and lack of confidence are key reasons underlying hesitancy.
WHO reports that vaccines currently prevents 2 to 3 million deaths a year, and a further 1.5 million could be avoided if global coverage of vaccinations improved. The organization said heath workers are the most trusted adviser and influencer of vaccination decisions, providing trusted and credible information on vaccinations.
In 2019, WHO said it will ramp up work to eliminate cervical cancer worldwide by increasing coverage of the HPV vaccine. WHO and its partners are also working to eradicate wild poliovirus in countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Also listed as top threats to global health were weak primary health care, noncommunicable diseases like diabetes, global influenza pandemic and antimicrobial resistance. For more information, visit WHO's website.