The most important survey you didn’t know about

What’s news?

On March 8, health minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi will announce a national survey on childhood immunisations, reports the Daily Maverick. It will be the first time that government will have “granular data” on whether children are receiving the right immunisations, and how resistant our society is to receiving them.

Across the world, diseases like Measles are making a comeback, killing thousands of children, as the anti-vaccination trend has taken off. We just don’t know how vulnerable SA is to this kind of misinformation campaign, and this survey will be one of the most critical pieces of medical research out there.

Why does this matter?

The campaign against vaccinations is killing thousands of children all over the world. The World Health Organisation has reportedly called “vaccine hesitancy” one of the biggest threat to public health everywhere.

Measles is no joke. At least 1000 children have reportedly died from it in Madagascar in the last few months. It rarely occurs in SA and causes authorities to panic when it does. It kills children and spreads extremely quickly. If the anti-vaccine campaign has roots in SA, which the survey might tell us, we are in serious trouble. Our battling public health facilities don’t need any more disease outbreaks to deal with.

Government-sponsored immunisation campaigns have already radically reduced diseases like childhood diarrhea and measles. It’s critical that we know whether these efforts are still working.

What’s going on?

Populism, viral misinformation campaigns on social media, as well as far right conspiracy theorists have helped fuel the idea that vaccines are a big conspiracy. There is simply no evidence for this, and all the evidence that does exist pretty much points to one thing: vaccines save lives.

The link between the revival of far right extremists all over the world and anti-vaccine campaigners is there for all to see, but it isn’t clear just what anti-vaccine campaigners are hoping to achieve. But what really matters is that in our country, access to quality public healthcare is a massive, massive problem. We just don’t need a measles outbreak to make matters worse. And we don’t need children to die needlessly.