Our age likes to believe in the inevitability of human progress, but for an example of the opposite consider the Pacific island nation of Samoa. A measles outbreak there has already killed more than 60 people, and authorities declared a two-day curfew on Thursday and Friday.
Businesses were obliged to close and vehicles had to stay off the roads from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
of The Journal reports that residents were told to fly red banners from their homes if anyone inside needed vaccinations in the country of roughly 200,000 people. Officials were going door-to-door to vaccinate people. Most of the dead were children under 4 years old, and more than 4,300 have been hit with the disease.
The outbreak is especially tragic because measles can be contained with vaccinations. But misinformation from vaccine opponents has spread around the world in recent years, including in supposedly civilized America.
An outbreak hit New York last year among Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods where parents often block vaccinations. New York State banned nonmedical exemptions for school vaccinations as a result. Some 1,200 measles cases have been recorded across the U.S. so far this year, the most since 1992.
Countries like Samoa are more vulnerable because they have less developed health systems and sometimes less efficient governments. Only 31% of Samoans were vaccinated against measles as of 2018.
The outbreak—and death toll—ought to chasten celebrities and others in the U.S. who have spread fears about vaccines, which are remarkably safe and prevent more deaths by far than they cause. It’s also a reminder that the march of civilization isn’t always for the better. Especially in the age of social media and lack of social trust, bad information can drive out good. Avoidable deaths like those in Samoa can be the tragic result.
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