Well, this is a sobering reality, isn't it? Every year, the World Health Organization releases its top ten threats to global health. In previous years, they've included things like measles, diphtheria, and other dangerous and life-threatening diseases. The WHO list for 2019 does include these, along with some other global health threats. For example, they placed air pollution and climate change at the top, saying that nine out of ten people in the world breathe polluted air every single day. Noncommunicable diseases like cancer and diabetes are also a major concern worldwide.
But there's another threat on the list this year, and it's equal parts horrifying and completely unsurprising. For the first time, the World Health Organization has named the anti-vax movement and vaccine hesitancy as a global health threat.
The WHO defines vaccine hesitancy as "the reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite the availability of vaccines". And if you've been paying attention, you already know how the anti-vax movement has set us back in this country alone. Vaccines save millions upon millions of lives every single year around the globe. According to the WHO, an additional 1.5 million deaths could be prevented if vaccine rates improved worldwide. It seems absolutely insane that we are discussing this in the year 2019, but it's not hard to see how the anti-vax movement has endangered the lives of millions of people. We've seen an increase of 30% in measles cases worldwide. Measles is a life-threatening disease that is easily preventable through vaccinations.
And yet, it seems like we hear of a new outbreak of the disease every single day. Certainly, you can't blame it ALL on vaccine hesitancy, and the WHO acknowledges that there are many factors involved. However, when countries that were close to completely eradicating the disease suddenly see an uptick in diagnosed cases, that's a major problem.
In 2019, the WHO is committed to ramping up their work when it comes to vaccines, in the hopes that they can potentially save lives. They hope to continue the fight to eliminate cervical cancer by increasing their coverage of the HPV vaccine. And in countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan, the WHO is hoping that 2019 is the year that they're finally able to stop the transmission of wild poliovirus.
But none of this is possible without the use of vaccines. Vaccinate your kids, people. Save their lives, and the lives of others.