Measles cases in Turkey almost quadruple in one year, highest since 2013 - WHO

A report by the World Health Organisation has shown that the confirmed cases of measles have increased from 716 in 2018 to 2719 in the first 11 months of 2019.

Out of the 2,719 confirmed cases some 1,800 were children under five years of age, with over 900 unvaccinated children, independent news site Bianet reported.

Parents of some 30,000 children have refused vaccinations in Turkey, Bianet quoted public health professor Dr Kayıhan Pala as saying.

Pala said experts in 2009 informed the Ministry of Health of the risk of new measles outbreaks, but their concerns were dismissed. 

“They told us there would be no more than a hundred cases of measles in Turkey again, that we were dreaming,” Pala said. “There were maybe three cases in 2008, which shot up to 7,400 in 2013.”

The two tendencies in opposing vaccination in Turkey are believing vaccinations are harmful, and not believing they are necessary, Pala said, adding that religious sensibilities don’t significantly influence Turkish society’s choice in the matter.

“The parents refusing vaccination for their children now had extremely high levels of vaccinations during their own childhood,” public health expert Nilay Etiler told Bianet.

Etiler said the reason parents question the effectiveness of vaccines is because they did not suffer the consequences themselves. “But if they hadn’t been vaccinated, growing up in a society without vaccines, a quarter of them wouldn’t have been alive today,” she said.

The Turkish Medical Association in April said Turkey was at risk for outbreaks of preventable diseases that had already been eradicated.

Celebrities and public figures have contributed to the anti-vaccination trend’s rise in Turkey, with celebrity nutritionist Canan Karatay condemning vaccines for aluminium content and nationalist journalist Soner Yalçın, who also wrote a book on the matter this year, saying vaccinations are “an American plot against Turkey.”