Briefing for journalists on the topic of “Routine Childhood Vaccination – Facts and Disinformation”
On October 19, 2023, a briefing for journalists was held on the topic “Routine Childhood Vaccination – Facts and Disinformation” which is part of the series of briefings that will be held within “Misinformation Management System and Journalists Briefings” project implemented by Metamorphosis Foundation for Internet and Society in partnership with UNICEF and in cooperation with the Ministry of Health of the Republic of North Macedonia, with the financial support from USAID. The goal of the project is to develop misinformation management system related to vaccination in the country and increase the capacity of media coverage on immunization.
The briefing was opened by Patrizia DiGiovanni, UNICEF Representative in North Macedonia, who greeted the present journalists and noted that thanks to vaccines, serious diseases today are not a threat any more, however they do still exist.
“In other countries I’ve seen people suffering from diseases that can be prevented with vaccination. This county has a good tradition when it comes to childhood vaccination, however, the infodemic is the one that is discouraging parents to vaccinate their children,” concludes DiGiovanni.
After her, Prof. Dr. Aleksandra Grozdanova, President of the National Commission on Immunization and Dr. Spec. Zlate Mehmedovich, Spokesperson of the Commission on Infectious Diseases, as representatives of the expert working group functioning within the framework of the project, shared their expert views based on relevant data and facts in the field of regular childhood vaccination.
Prof. Dr. Grozdanova focused on the immunization calendar and the importance of getting each doze at the exactly determined age, without postponement. She noted that there are no classical anti-vaxer in our country, but confused parents lacking information. Therefore, she underlined that all the information regarding immunization are available at the website e-zdravstvo.mk.
“Diseases have been brought under control thanks to vaccination. Towards the end of 2018, i.e. the beginning of 2019, we had a measles epidemic. At that time, the immunization coverage was under 74% and it was a matter of time before the disease appeared. We had 4 deaths and 1,900 cases. That year we have administered 41,623 dozes to children up to 14 years old. If there was a connection of the vaccine with autism, then we would have detected a case. Thus, this vaccine is completely safe.
Dr. Spec. Mehmedovich, on the other hand, informed that in the country, there is no vaccine that has a coverage of less than 50%.
“It is so because the population is aware of the advantages of vaccination. We have regions and cities that have coverage of above 90%. Autism spectrum in children is not connected to MMR vaccine, we have science behind this. So is the claim that HPV vaccine causes sterility. We don’t have a single case recorded, stated Mehmedovich.
He pointed out that three diseases are threating the European continent, thus being pertussis, diphtheria and measles, and whether we will have cases it depends on the level of vaccination, of the awareness of the parents about the necessity to vaccinate their children.
“Let’s not forget that in the past we had deaths, let’s not learn the hard way again.”, said Mehmedovich, emphasizing that vaccines protect the population from severe forms of diseases and death.
In the end, Bojan Kordalov, Senior Communications Specialist, emphasized how harmful disinformation related to vaccination can be, as well as fake news and unscientific information about vaccination, because they cause fear and mistrust among people towards the doctors. Therefore, proper informing is important in order not to endanger your own and the health of others. Scientific truth is one and based on facts and so it is necessary to be guided by science, he pointed out.
This Activity is prepared by Metamorphosis Foundation for Internet and Society as part of the Preventing and responding to COVID-19 in North Macedonia project funded by the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and supported by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in cooperation with the Ministry of Health of the Republic of North Macedonia.