My CFR colleague Laurie Garrett and her Global Health program have produced a fascinating, interactive map that shows vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks since 2008. For those of us interested in Africa, her work highlights the devastation of easily prevented diseases in sub-Sahara Africa, particularly when vaccines are so cheap in comparison with the costs of the diseases.
Her map focuses on “the big five”--measles, mumps, rubella, polio, and whooping cough—and is based on media rather than government sources. This is wise because too often ministries of health have incomplete or distorted statistics. Because the data is perforce incomplete, no map can be absolutely definitive. But it illustrates magnitudes and trends that cannot be ignored.
Moreover, Laurie’s map is sobering in that it shows significant outbreaks of such diseases in the developed world, especially the United States, Australia, and Western Europe. Why is there underuse of vaccines in the developed world or in middle-income countries? In the United States, for example, I suspect that the preponderance of vaccine-preventable diseases in, say, California may reflect the anti-vaccine movement and its costs.