Newspaper article International New York Times

Immunizing against Ignorance

Newspaper article International New York Times

Immunizing against Ignorance

Article excerpt

An astonishing number of children die because people are wrongly afraid of vaccines.

Of all the threats to human life confronted by international health workers, few cause as heavy a toll as what is termed "vaccine hesitancy" -- the delay or refusal by misinformed people to accept vaccination for themselves and their children. An estimated one in five children went without lifesaving vaccines globally last year, adding to the grim toll of 1.5 million children who die annually for lack of immunization, according to the World Health Organization.

This problem is only compounded by the challenge workers face in convincing skeptical publics to put aside what science shows are local myths and dangerous indifference. Citing the fight against Ebola, Dr. Philippe Duclos, senior adviser for the W.H.O.'s immunization programs, noted how "engaging with communities and persuading individuals to change their habits and behaviors is a linchpin of public health success." Unfortunately, there is no easy prescription for how to change these habits. …

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