AS RECENT headlines have proclaimed, measles, the highly contagious respiratory tract infection caused by Measles morbillivirus, is making a lethal comeback. It has even surfaced in the Unites States, which had previously declared itself to be “eliminated from measles” in the year 2000. Clearly, a multitude of factors are involved in each country’s outbreaks, but there is an underlying tone, which also sounds eerily the same.
In early February 2019, the Department of Health (DOH) declared a measles outbreak across many regions in the Philippines. According to the DOH, it is an increase of 547%, from 791 cases in 2017, to a staggering 5,120 in 2018. In November 2018, myself and three other 3rd-year medical students, accompanied by nurses from Barangay Tisa and the DOH, experienced vaccine apprehension first hand. Some locals were not only difficult to convince but could not be convinced to comply with the DOH’s “Ligtas Tigdas,” or Door-to-Door Immunization program. Now, with the escalating rate and growing apprehension toward vaccinations, it is quite worrisome and also predicted that this trend will increase.
Whether or not more blame should be placed on an individual person, a pharmaceutical company or an entire government agency probably isn’t an efficient use of energy at this point. Instead, our efforts might better be placed in reeducating the public, not passing the blame or mocking ignorant citizens. And, as comfortable and righteous as we may feel criticizing these people, we too cultivate the very same attitude. Even if one is not a health care professional, our very goal should be centered on education.
The conversations and the principles we keep ought to bring ourselves and others to search for the truth. And that alone. Not for the newest, most popular posts, or “articles,” with the most comments and likes at the top of the feed, not for a single, self-righteous perspective and most definitely not to advance our own personal “convictions” or beliefs. No matter how powerful, when a belief is not founded on evidence, especially in the realm of public health, no one wins. As Thom Yorke famously serenades, “Just ‘cause you feel it, doesn’t mean it’s there.” No matter how badly you sense something and want to believe it, that doesn’t make it any more true.
Each ingenious cell phone we hold and each building we stand underneath, and, surprise, even the protection from illnesses via vaccines would never be possible without research—without evidence. As it is our very duty, as well as our privilege, to protect and maintain public health, our approach toward issues, be it in health care, personal, legal and even political, ought to be the same. And it’s why I came to love science many years ago. Science doesn’t exist to prove anyone or anything, as either good or bad, but only to find the truth; why should we aim for anything less?