The anti-vaccine crisis

The anti-vaccine crisis

Years ago, I was applauding the rise of social media and broadband internet. I was mesmerized with the possible opportunities that they would bring. I thought education would continuously change and better education would be available wherever you are. I thought reaching any type of information would be democratized, and the youth would eventually be the most enlightened generation ever. 

But things did not really go as I hoped. Social media and broadband internet powered many good things, but also fortified ignorance. Now, after so many years, I am baffled by how people could become anti-vaxxers or flat-Earthers. How is it possible that an educated human being can come to the conclusion that there is a giant conspiracy theory behind vaccinations and that the Earth is really flat?

Thanks to vaccines, the last case of smallpox was in 1977. Measles-related deaths have decreased by 80 percent globally since 2000.

But now there is an outbreak in the U.S. state of Washington.

According to the Guardian newspaper, “Big surges in the number of measles cases and deaths map to countries where populist parties have become prominent – in particular, Greece, Italy and France.” You can add the U.S. and Turkey to the list.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of people dying in first world countries from vaccine-preventable diseases just because parents think that governments are controlling their minds via vaccines. Because of this type of misinformation, smallpox and other past diseases are being seen in Turkey after decades.

What can be done to make people regain trust again? It is obvious that they cannot be persuaded by scientific findings or any evidence that makes sense. I have read comments saying “governments” across the world have conspired against the people and they are giving their own citizens the illnesses to kill of the anti-vaccine movement.

If social media taught me anything, it is the fact that you cannot win an argument with an ignorant person who thinks he/she has solved all the mysteries of the universe.

On Feb. 26, a Facebook representative told CNN that Facebook will soon take action against misinformation about vaccines. The social media giant is working with health experts to decide what changes to make, while considering a combination of approaches to handle vaccine misinformation. These approaches wouldn’t take misinformation off Facebook but rather make it less prominent. For example, groups that promote vaccine misinformation wouldn’t show up in the list of groups that Facebook recommends users join. Also, Facebook would make sure that posts containing vaccine misinformation would appear farther down in a user’s newsfeed.

This could be one way to tackle the issue but every social media platform should join in. It is not enough that Facebook is taking action on its own. YouTube, Instagram and the others should take the same steps at once.

The model of social media is based on interaction and view counts. So it is understandable that they would want controversial videos and posts about the hot topics. But these social media power houses should draw a line somewhere.

They must stop sacrificing the future of people and the countries just to make profits. It is just evil and it is against all the reasons why we applauded the growth of social media outlets.