No Man is an Island

The nurses were supposed to mix the measles vaccine with water but due to an error, they instead mixed it with an expired muscle relaxant. That mistake led to the deaths of two infants in Samoa. In the year and a half since that sad event, those two deaths led to rumors, misinformation, and eventually outright lies about the danger of vaccinating against measles and other deadly diseases. On remote islands like Samoa, even word of mouth rumors can spread at internet speed. So the rate of vaccinations plummeted to a low of 31 percent. The measles virus was lying in wait, just like it is in communities around the world where misinformation is driving down vaccination rates. Now, “the number of people killed in Samoa’s measles outbreak has reached 53, with almost 4,000 cases reported in total.” It’s a tragic story and a cautionary tale in an era when an increasing susceptibility to falsehoods can lead to an increasing vulnerability to much worse. BBC: How a wrong injection helped cause Samoa’s measles epidemic.

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