UNICEF warns Poland lost measles herd immunity due to parents refusing vaccines

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The level of vaccination of children against measles in Poland has fallen so low that the country has lost herd immunity against the disease, warns UNICEF. The trend has been driven in large part by unfounded concerns that the vaccine harms children.

Over the last decade, the number of parents refusing to vaccinate their children has increased by a factor of almost 14. In 2019, the number of people not receiving compulsory vaccinations in Poland reached 48,609, up from just 3,437 in 2010.

Last year, by October the number of refusals was 13% higher than in the same period of 2019 and had exceeded 50,000, notes UNICEF. This is the “result of anti-vaccination groups spreading disinformation and harmful myths”, says Hanna Czajka, a paediatrician specialising in infectious diseases.

A particular concern is over measles, where the refusal of parents to vaccinate “has already led to the loss of population immunity”, notes UNICEF. To guarantee protection against measles, it is necessary to have a vaccination rate of 95%. But in Poland the level fell below 93% in 2018 and has continued to drop.

In 2019, Poland reported 1,423 cases of measles – more than in the previous 18 years combined. Only three other countries in Europe – France, Romania and Italy – had more cases of the disease than Poland that year.

Read more via Notes from Poland