Dalila Omerovic, Staff Writer

More parents are making the decision not to vaccinate their children which can be blamed primarily on the rise of inaccurate and misleading information regarding vaccinations. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds America is now experiencing the greatest number of measles cases since the disease was eradicated in 2000. The disease still remains the most popular in poor, developing countries in Africa and Asia, but more cases are being reported in wealthy European nations like Britain, France and Italy.

Measles is an incredibly contagious disease that can cause complications such as pneumonia and brain swelling, which can be deadly. The people at highest risk are unvaccinated young children and unvaccinated pregnant women. The CDC finds 90 percent of those who are exposed will catch the virus if they are not vaccinated and the disease normally kills one out every 1,000 victims.

One of the largest outbreaks in the U.S. occurred in New York City, prompted by Americans who had visited Israel and who upon their return spread the disease in largely unvaccinated communities. In response, Mayor Bill De Blasio issued $1,000 fines to those who refused to vaccinate and declared a state of emergency. A public health campaign was launched and children who are unvaccinated could be barred from indoor public places like schools, stores, churches and restaurants, according to The New York Times.

France suffered from a large measles outbreak as well in 2017. Since passing new legislation that made MMR vaccinations and several others mandatory, the country has reported a decline in measles cases.

While U.S. vaccination requirements vary by state, all of them allow vaccine exemptions for medical reasons. The CDC finds 19 states allow medical, religious and philosophical exemptions, 28 states allow medical and religious exemptions, and three states allow only medical exemptions.

Experts believe strong anti-vaccination groups with strategic and widespread campaigns have contributed to the recent decline of vaccination rates. Groups like these spread inaccuracies about vaccines and their ingredients and claim they lead to cancer, autoimmune diseases and autism.

The truth is that vaccines are perfectly safe, and the claims spread by anti-vaccination groups are false. We should focus on creating public health campaigns to help counter misinformation and show how beneficial vaccinations are to public health. Measles is one example of the many preventable diseases with proper vaccinations. Campaigns could easily be launched through the internet and social media. These campaigns can be government funded projects or created by interest groups, nonprofits and think-tanks.

Institutions like the World Health Organization, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) can play a major role in creating a safe, healthy environment by increasing their efforts to educate the public about vaccines. New York City’s public health campaign can be used as a model to introduce similar programs around the country, especially in rural communities with low vaccination rates. As more people discover the dangers of not vaccinating, it is likely that fewer exemptions will be filed and vaccination rates will go up.