While we may not be able to control the spread of measles, the least we can do is control the spread of dangerous misinformation.
The United States hit a bit of an embarrassing landmark this year with a record number of measles cases, the highest recorded incidence since vaccinations eliminated the disease almost 20 years ago. According to the CDC, at least 764 cases across 23 states have been reported in this year alone. A large reason for these outbreaks is the wave of anti-vaxxers deciding not to vaccinate their children and spreading misinformation discouraging others from doing so, as well.
The two populations suffering the most from these outbreaks? Children under the age of four and people who were not vaccinated.
It's not difficult to see the myriad problems that arise from deciding not to vaccinate your child. There is enough information both online and from medical professionals explaining all of the reasons to do so and all of the risks that come with not doing so. But the fact that children under the age of four — many of whom are too young or have certain medical conditions that do not allow them to be vaccinated themselves — are one of the most affected groups in these outbreaks really highlights the problem behind choosing not to vaccinate your child: you are not just choosing for your child, you're choosing for every child they come in contact with.
Luckily, news of these outbreaks has appeared to have garnered the attention of those who were previously less outspoken about the issue, including the media. This past February, YouTube demonetized anti-vax videos, and shortly after, Amazon removed anti-vax documentaries from Prime Video. It was only last month that Facebook announced their plans to ban anti-vax groups and pages. The latest social network to take action is Instagram.
Starting soon, Instagram will be rolling out initiatives to slow the spread of anti-vax propaganda on it's network including pop-up alerts that appears when people search certain anti-vax terms, similar to the pop-up alerts that occur now when people search terms related to self-harm, suicide, and eating disorders.
Hopefully the pop-up alerts will contain resources with accurate vaccine information and resources for those looking to learn more. Unfortunately, it may be a while before the damage done by anti-vaxxers gets completely reversed. But while we may not be able to control the spread of measles, the least we can do is control the spread of dangerous misinformation.