“Where are the anti-vaxxers now?!?! They are responsible for these dying babies from measles!”

This is the battle cry of the online digital moms with their pitchforks against the women who advocated cherry picking vaccinations for their children a bit more than a year ago. The vaccination debate got so bad that the Facebook group actually started to ban any vaccination-related posts. Vaccination is now ranked equally with other potentially polarizing and antagonizing discussions such as politics and religion.

Claws out for vaccine discussions

Every time someone posts about vaccines in this group for the last 1.5 years, I noticed that the usually gentle and helpful support group turns into this vicious and bitter battlefield on the comments section. The commenters feel so strongly for this. It’s such a sensitive topic and it got even more so earlier this year.  

This 2019, three regions in the Philippines were recently declared with a confirmed measles outbreak by the Department of Health. The minimum age for measles vaccine was originally 9 months but it was bumped up to 6 months because of the urgency. The outbreak also puts all pregnant women at risk when they do their prenatal checkups.

Personally, I have been paranoid taking my son to different places even when he completed his vaccinations. I have a few mom friends but I was exposed to both pro- and anti-vaccination literature. My short mom friend list is equally divided between pro and anti-vaxxers. (In my case, I followed my son’s pediatrician’s vaccination schedule. I also consumed a bit of anti-vaccination literature during the first year of being a first-time mother. I admit that for a time, I was a bit tempted to skip on some vaccinations.)

What we don’t know as moms can sometimes hurt us.

There are a lot of impressionable people who are easily influenced by what they see on social media. The research is all out there but there was some amplification on the side effects of untested vaccines that unfortunately affected even established vaccines like the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella).   

I have never read as much as literature as I have in my entire life compared to the months of becoming a first time mom. During my pregnancy, I was insanely researching every single thing. It was only when my son turned one and my eyebags became raccoon-like that I decided to slow down a little on the parenting literature.

EDA with WHO’s Dataset

For this exploration, I took the dataset of the World Health Organization on measles by country and by year from this website. I used Tableau and Excel for this run since I am not really handling large volumes of data and I just quickly explored the numbers.

Interestingly, there was a much larger outbreak or record in 2014. The 2018 records trail as the second in the record with only around a quarter of the 2014 numbers.

measles-philippines-bubble-chart

Studying the distribution of the values from 2011 to 2018, the 2014 cases looked like a wild outlier compared to the rest of the values.

measles-bar-chart-progress-2014-peak

I could not do much with the data off the bat. There were so many lurking variables that are worth exploring. If I were a statistical fly in Facebook HQ’s wall, I would have correlated this with social media coverage and sentiment on measles on Facebook by Filipino users and this would have made for a more exciting analysis. (I guess we all need to crawl and walk before we could fly.)

As a mom, my only hope is that the measles vaccination shots get more promptly to those homes with babies. And despite the ugly words that have been hurled at each other in the wake of this disaster, moms like me can still collectively help build a world where diseases like this are no longer making an unpleasant comeback on our kids.

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