Experts are calling on social media companies to do more to spread reliable information on vaccines, as well as crack down on what they call dangerous misinformation about vaccines. File Photo by Twin Design/Shutterstock/UPI
July 2 (UPI) -- Massive anti-vaccination campaigns are taking place all around the world, and experts say social media organizations need to do more to stop them.
The Salzburg Statement on Vaccination Acceptance, published Tuesday in the Journal of Health Communication, has called on companies like Google and Facebook to better identify misinformation related to vaccine safety. The statement, penned by a group of global scientists, also recommends government agencies around the world provide better mandatory immunization programs.
"We are alarmed that the WHO this year declared vaccine hesitancy a top-ten international public health problem. This is a man-made, dangerous and wholly unnecessary crisis," Scott Ratzan, founding editor of the Journal of Health Communication and study author, said in a news release.
According to the statement, vaccines have helped to save up to 3 million lives by preventing diseases such as hepatitis B, meningitis, measles and polio. Additionally, researchers say that every dollar spent on vaccination brings back $44 in public good.
Still, some people haven't received proper treatment for these diseases. In 2017, roughly 110,000 people died around the world from the measles, most children younger than age 5.
"We intend to keep up a steady drumbeat of accurate vaccine communications until the traditional public consensus in support of childhood immunization is restored," Ratzan said
That same year, coverage of the measles vaccine in the European region fell below the 95 percent threshold, according to the World Health Organization, threatening "herd immunity," which keeps diseases from circulating. In 2018, measles cases began to surge in the 34 countries that make up the European Region, resulting in the death of 72 children.
This year in the United States, outbreaks in three states -- and a total of 1,095 measles cases -- have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The United Nations has blamed anti-vaccine parents for the spread of measles outbreaks.
Earlier this year, Google and several social media companies announced they would work to curb the spread of misinformation on their platforms.
"The resurgence of potentially life-threatening diseases like the measles, which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control declared eliminated in the United States in 2000, undermines the integrity of childhood protections that thousands of dedicated scientists, doctors and public health officials spent the better part of the last century putting in place," said Lawrence Gostin, director of the WHO Collaborating Center on National and Global Health Law.
"Parents do have rights to make informed decisions about vaccinating their children, but they do no have the right to place their children, or other children, at risk of serious infectious disease. We need to do a far better job of reaching out to vaccine-hesitant parents," Gostin said.