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A doctor prepares to administer a vaccine to an infant. Photo: Fred Tanneau/AFP via Getty Images

Vaccine coverage continued to decline in parts of the developed world last year, resulting in 60,000 measles cases in Europe — the most this century — and a record number of pediatric flu deaths in the U.S. In several Western U.S. counties, up to 30% of children have not received their full vaccine schedule — a trend that's been worsening since 2009.

The big picture: This drop-off in vaccinations owes primarily to parental exemptions for non-medical reasons, typically because of false beliefs that vaccines cause autism or illness. There are signs the anti-vaccine movement's misinformation campaigns will strengthen in 2019, leading to further declines in vaccine coverage and possibly more outbreaks of infectious disease.

  • Released in 2016, the propagandist film "Vaxxed" accused the CDC of covering up evidence that vaccines cause autism and propelled the anti-vaccine movement. A sequel is slated for 2019.
  • Political action committees in the U.S., Italy and elsewhere are ramping up populist rhetoric about parental freedoms to enact legislation making it easier to obtain vaccine exemptions.
  • Launched in the fall of 2018, Children’s Health Defense has emerged as an influential new anti-vaccine organization. It focuses on American children, but its reach could extend abroad.
  • Social media continues to amplify misinformation from hundreds of anti-vaccine websites.

Where it stands: The response to the anti-vaccine lobby by U.S. and European government agencies has been modest, leaving much of the defense of vaccines to academics. This situation will have to change if outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases continue or increase.

What to watch: The anti-vaccine movement could also move beyond its stronghold areas into Africa, Asia and Latin America. 2018 already saw anti-vaccine activities adversely affect child health vaccination programs in India, Indonesia and Thailand.

Peter Hotez is a professor of pediatrics and dean at Baylor College of Medicine and the author of “Vaccines Did Not Cause Rachel’s Autism.”

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

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  3. Vaccine: Florida requiring proof of residency to get vaccine — CDC extends interval between vaccine doses for exceptional cases.
  4. World: Hong Kong puts tens of thousands on lockdown as cases surge — Pfizer to supply 40 million vaccine doses to lower-income countries — Brazil begins distributing AstraZeneca vaccine.
  5. Sports: 2021 Tokyo Olympics hang in the balance.
  6. 🎧 Podcast: Carbon Health's CEO on unsticking the vaccine bottleneck.

DOJ: Capitol rioter threatened to "assassinate" Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Supporters of former President Trump storm the U.S. Captiol on Jan. 6. Photo: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A Texas man who has been charged with storming the U.S. Capitol in the deadly Jan. 6 siege posted death threats against Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), the Department of Justice said.

The big picture: Garret Miller faces five charges in connection to the riot by supporters of former President Trump, including violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds and making threats. According to court documents, Miller posted violent threats online the day of the siege, including tweeting “Assassinate AOC.”

Schumer calls for IG probe into alleged plan by Trump, DOJ lawyer to oust acting AG

Jeffrey Clark speaks next to Deputy US Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen at a news conference in October. Photo: Yuri Gripas/AFP via Getty Images.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Saturday called for the Justice Department inspector general to investigate an alleged plan by former President Trump and a DOJ lawyer to remove the acting attorney general and replace him with someone more willing to investigate unfounded claims of election fraud.

Driving the news: The New York Times first reported Friday that the lawyer, Jeffrey Clark, allegedly devised "ways to cast doubt on the election results and to bolster Mr. Trump’s continuing legal battles and the pressure on Georgia politicians. Because Mr. [Jeffrey] Rosen had refused the president’s entreaties to carry out those plans, Mr. Trump was about to decide whether to fire Mr. Rosen and replace him with Mr. Clark."