Vaccine hesitancy and antivaxxer sentiment on the rise around the world

Antivaxxers?! Episode 1 explores the history and impact of vaccine histancy.

Vaccine hesitancy and Antivaxxers
Vaccine hesitancy and antivaxxers sentiments are on the rise at a time when vaccines against COVID-19 are key for the global recovery.
  • Vaccine hesitancy and antivaxxer sentiment are on the rise. 
  • The podcast series Antivaxxers?! explores the rise of vaccine hesitancy and antivaxxers sentiment and how they might impact the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • Episode 1 looks at the history of vaccine hesitancy and how it can jeopardise health outcomes.

Vaccine hesitancy and antivaxxer sentiment are on the rise. ANTICENTRIC’S podcast series Antivaxxers?! explores these issues. Episode 1, Fear vs Truth: Rise of the Antivaxxers looks at the evolution of vaccine hesitancy and the current state of these potentially dangerous belief.

“Vaccine hesitancy is, of course, a 21st Century and late 20th Century phenomenom but I think that it actually has deeper roots,” said Heather MacDougall, an associate professor of history at the University of Waterloo, in Canada.

There is no shortage of people who are vocal in their opposition to vaccines, among the ranks of parents, celebrities and even health care professionals.

“The parents are afraid that the vaccine is not safe and they’re doing it out of the best intentions. They want to protect their children. They don’t realize how deadly the diseases are,” Dr. Karen Lewsi, of the Department of Health Services in Arizona, US, told reporters.

Listen to Antivaxxers?! Episode 1

As The Conversation noted, “skepticism of vaccines in the U.S. could be a problem in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.”

The first episode in Antivaxxers?!, Anticentric’s six-part podcast series exploring how the rise of vaccine hesitancy and antivaxxer sentiment could impact the recovery from COVID-19.

Antivaxer movements are on the rise at the same time as teams of researchers work around the clock to get a vaccine for SARS-CoV-2 out to the world as part of a global effort to deal with COVID-19, the disease that has brought the global economy to a screeching halt, infected more than 55 million people since December 2019 and  killed more than 1.3 million people by November 2020.

Vaccine hesitancy and antivaxxers not new

Vaccine hesitancy is not a new phenomenon.

After an outbreak of smallpox in the U.S. in the 1880s, a movement against mandatory vaccination started to gain traction and eventually led to armed groups of civilians working to block immunization campaigns through the 1920s.

A century has passed but the fears remain for many. Fears about safety of the vaccines, fears about side-effects, fears about the future of children. The controversy goes on.

Some of these fears are grounded on specific examples that are amplified and used as the point of reference regardless of logic. The fact that a vaccine may have not worked out 50 years ago does not mean that the hundreds of vaccines that have been developed before or since are also dangerous.

For example, in the 1970s, a vaccine known as DPT for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis caused severe side-effects on more than three dozen children. That one vaccine failure helped plant the seeds of anti-vaccine sentiment for years.

In another example, antivaxxers found another lightning rod in a study in The Lancet, a very credible journal. The study linked MMR vaccines (for measles, mumps and rubella) to bowel disease and autism. The study was recanted within days and all but one of the researchers involved distanced themselves from the study.

The one researcher that stuck by the study, Andrew Wakefield, was later stripped of his license to practice medicine. Much of the damage was done, however. In the years that followed the publication of the paper, vaccination compliance related to MMR in the United Kingdom plummeted.

Wakefield has continued to spread antivaxxer views.

 COVID-19 rekindles fears

The fact that COVID-19 vaccines have been developed at record speeds has not helped allay fears. On the contrary. ANTICENTRIC found plenty of discussion and commentary in social media and from sources to suggest there are numerous pockets opposition to these new vaccines. The concern range from simple doubts about how safe these vaccines are to fears that these vaccines are being used to implant microchips in the recipients or for population control.

A little history seems useful here. The first vaccine was developed by Edward Jenner in 1796 to tackle smallpox. Back then there were no population tracking microchips, or any microchips but vaccines did help protect the population.

Countries with populations that are willing to take vaccines are more likely to have better healthcare outcomes and see their economies grow faster. An example is South Korea.

Jerome Kim, the director general of the non-profit International Vaccine Institute, told ANTICENTRIC about the high rate of vaccination in the country and its impact.

His views are almost diametrically opposed to those of Harry Brunal, a physician who practices holistic medicine in Colombia.

Brunal is an avid antivaxxer with a large following on social media. He told ANTICENTRIC about his belief that a global war is underway, a war that is being fought using electromagnetic weapons.

Listen to Antivaxxers?!, our podcast series that considers the rise of antivaxxer movements and vaccine hesitancy, in Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts.