Vaccination against measles in a pediatric consultation in Bucharest, on April 16, 2018
An 11-month-old girl died in Romania in mid-March because of measles. Her parents had refused to vaccinate her against the disease that has killed 46 people since the beginning of an epidemic that is raging in the country.
About 12,000 people have been infected since the outbreak was declared at the end of 2016, which places Romania as the country most affected by measles in Europe.
Among the deceased patients, 39 were children three years old or younger who had not been vaccinated.
In the health department of Prahova, the province in the south of the country where the girl died in March, experts have multiplied information campaigns, especially in rural areas, but they are fighting against an insidious enemy: rumors on the Internet.
Miljana Grbic, of the World Health Organization (WHO), explains the causes of the insufficiency of vaccination coverage in Romania, on April 4, in Bucharest.
„People distrust because they read all kinds of things on the Internet,“ for example, that „vaccines cause autism,“ a statement widely spread on social networks that has no scientific basis, says Dr. Silvana Dan.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), „access to medical services, education and support provided to GPs“ play a key role in the level of vaccination coverage, explains Miljana Grbic, head of the office of the WHO in Romania, a few days of the international week of vaccination held by the organism.
– ‚Do they kill the vaccines?‘ –
250 kilometers northeast of Prahova, in Valea Seaca, another 10-month-old girl died of measles in February.
„The parents had refused in writing to vaccinate their children after hearing on television that the vaccines kill,“ explains the mayor of Valea Seaca, Ioan Pravat.
According to the Center for the Control of Communicable Diseases, most cases of measles affect members of the poorest communities, most of them gypsies, who often do not have a family doctor or who, if they have one, only consult them. in case of emergency.
In order to reach the most vulnerable families, the authorities resort to Gypsy health mediators who work with local councils.
The mediator Aurelia Oprisan, 48, goes every day from house to house in Boldesti-Scaieni (south) to convince the inhabitants of the benefits of vaccines. „The media influence a lot of people in a negative way, so I tell them that what they hear is not true,“ Oprisan explains to AFP.
Anisoara Iorga, 35, tells her experience. „I’m not going to lie to him, at first I was also afraid because I had heard that it could cause problems, paralysis … But I had my children vaccinated and they do not have any problems“.
While the epidemic was gaining ground, last summer, 109 Gypsy children from that town were vaccinated in a single day, in July. Since then, families often take their children to the doctor to receive the recommended vaccines, says the mediator.
A child receives a vaccine against measles, on 16 de baril 2018, in Bucharest
Despite the campaigns carried out in recent months, vaccine coverage in the country as a whole remains below the 95% recommended by the WHO, standing at 87% for the first dose and 75% for the second dose in 2016 ( latest available annual data).
According to numerous testimonies, the authorities are partly responsible for this situation, due to an irregular and insufficient supply of vaccines in a large part of the country.
– Blocked project –
Criticized by the WHO, Romania promised to improve the immunization rate by making mandatory 10 childhood vaccines. But a bill that conditions access to the school to the fact of being vaccinated has been blocked for six months in the Chamber of Deputies.
„We have received many amendments that we are studying,“ Florin Buicu, president of the commission in charge of health, a doctor and a social-democratic deputy, told AFP.
Most of those amendments were presented by anti-vaccines, increasingly active, he explains.
A woman gives a bottle to a baby in Boldesti-Scaieni in Romania, on March 20, 2018
„We are forced to defend scientific works, while sources of information that are not based on any study are taken for granted,“ said Alexandru Rafila, head of the Society of Microbiology.
According to him, vaccines are victims of their own success. „They have almost made many diseases disappear, leading people to think that vaccination is no longer necessary.“
In her small house in Boldesti-Scaieni, Roxana Fieraru, a 38-year-old mother of four, does not need anyone to convince her of the benefits of vaccines. „You can not imagine how calm I am knowing that my children have been vaccinated,“ she says.