COVID - 19 and spreading the anti-vaccine information

in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Author: Merima Uštović-Kapetanović

Herd/community immunity, immunization and vaccines were the commonly used terms during last year. Together, with outbreak of COVID-19, they opened Pandora box for conspiracy theories and fake news, not only in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but all around the globe. Encyclopedia Britannica says that conspiracy theory is an attempt to explain harmful or tragic events as the result of the actions of a small powerful group. Such explanations reject the accepted narrative surrounding those events; indeed, the official version may be seen as further proof of the conspiracy.

Bosnia welcomed COVID-19 outbreak with epidemic of measles in some parts of the country. UNICEF states that Central Bosnia Canton had only 33 percent immunization coverage in 2013, and there were more than 5000 confirmed cases of measles. Immunization became global issue, and fertile ground for conspiracy theories. Anti-vaccination movement had its rise during 90’s of the last century. This is not first regression against modern medicine, but it is most successful mostly because former physician Andrew Wakefield. In his retracted paperwork, he promoted a non-existent connection between Autism and the MMM vaccines. (Autism is developmental disorder characterized by difficulties with social interactions). 

Even with the fact that many large epidemical studies didn’t found any connection between fighting against measles, rubella and mumps and Autism, he is still hailed by the non-vaccination movement. CDC, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that one dose of MMR vaccine is 93% effective against measles, 78% effective against mumps, and 97% against rubella. Two doses of MMR vaccine are 97% effective against measles, and 88% effective against mumps. 

The most known fact that Wakefield permanently left without his medical license didn’t stop the growth of the conspiracy theories about the most important measures of preventative medicine to protect the population from diseases and infections. After few severe cases of measles, and death of nine - month - old baby, media informed that lots of parents who skipped MMR vaccine, or all immunization process came to vaccinate theirs kids.

 Merriam- Webster online dictionary says that pandemic is an outbreak of a disease that occurs over a wide geographic area (such as multiple countries or continents) and typically affects a significant proportion of the world. Pandemic of COVID – 19 has been declared 5th of March 2020th. After government measures and lack of known people who are contagious, people turn themselves to conspiracy theories. But, why is so hard to imagine pandemic if you are aware that this is not first one?

 

On page www.historyofvaccines.org you can find a wonderful timeline about all known epidemic, pandemic together with history of vaccination. And, also, elementary biology gives us a lecture of viruses, bacteria and vaccination.

In the country where everything is on edge, we can only imagine, if immunization ever starts, what will happen if statistic of MMR vaccine repeats with those for COVID - 19. Fight with conspiracy theories and fake news is responsibility of all of us, media, educational and medical institutions. Social platforms are already fighting with fake news in its own way. UNESCO prepared their new publication Journalism, 'Fake News' and Disinformation: A Handbook for Journalism Education and Trainingwith hash tag #FightFakeNews. 

If we all start to speak louder against misinformation, maybe that will make a turning point against all of fake news that are surrounding us and have a terrible effect on global health. Johns Hopkins University has published statistics which shows that Bosnia and Herzegovina ranks 11th out of 175 countries of the world when it comes to mortality from Covid-19 disease. Even this didn’t help to raise awareness in society whose parts still think that somebody can curse you, or that garlic and rakia are universal cure for everything. As, for now, we can only hope that people will start believing in science, and not to the loudest part of group, which has the newest update on how they will enslave us with microchips inside vaccines.