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Vaccine hesitancy among top ten threats to global health in 2019: WHO

Vaccine hesitancy among top ten threats to global health in 2019: WHO
Copyright REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
Copyright REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
By Cristina Abellan Matamoros
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Vaccine hesitancy among top ten threats to global health in 2019, warned the WHO.


Vaccine hesitancy and air pollution have surfaced as the newest threats to global health, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Vaccine hesitancy on the rise

People sceptical of getting vaccinated against disease are among the top ten threats to global health in 2019, warned the WHO in a list released this week.

"Vaccine hesitancy – the reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite the availability of vaccines – threatens to reverse progress made in tackling vaccine-preventable diseases," warned the UN's health body.

"Vaccination is one of the most cost-effective ways of avoiding disease – it currently prevents 2-3 million deaths a year, and a further 1.5 million could be avoided if global coverage of vaccinations improved," it added.

A 2018 survey found that Bulgaria, Latvia, and France were the most vaccine-sceptic countries in the European Union.

Confidence in vaccines has declined in some parts of Europe because of anti-vaccine groups gaining traction in the political sphere, said the report.

Preventable diseases like measles are making a comeback because of low vaccination rates among children.

There were 37 deaths and over 41,000 infections in Europe in the first six months of 2018 alone — more than any other 12-month period in the past decade.

Measles ‘spreads like wildfire’ if children not vaccinated: WHO expert

Climate change and air pollution

Air pollution is deemed to be the "greatest environmental risk to health" by the WHO since nine out of ten people breathe polluted air every day.

Pollution in the air can "damage the lungs, heart, and brain" and "kills 7 million people prematurely every year from cancer, strokes, and heart and lung diseases," said the WHO.


The main cause of air pollution — fossil fuels — are also an important contributor to climate change, which endangers people's health in several ways, according to the agency.

"Between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause 250,000 additional deaths per year from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress," it said.

But the agency is not the only trying to raise awareness of climate change. Activists are using the viral ten-year challenge to show some of the disastrous consequences the phenomenon is having on Earth.

Renewed risk of influenza

Boxes of vaccines against the flu are seen as part of the start of the seasonal influenza vaccination campaign in Nice, France October 24, 2017.REUTERS

The WHO has also warned that the world will be hit with an influenza pandemic again this year. The virus, also known as the flu, already made last year's list.

The health agency said they did not know when it would hit or how severe it would be this time.

WHO monitors the circulation of the various influenza viruses to detect potential pandemic strains with the help of governments.

Each year the agency recommends which strain should be included in the flu vaccine that protects people from the virus.

Recurring threats

Other threats flagged by the WHO were diabetes, cancer and heart disease, people living in vulnerable settings, antimicrobial resistance, Ebola, weak primary health care, dengue, and HIV.

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