Parents in This Poor Nation Would Love to Have Measles Vaccines

A physician who hails from the Democratic Republic of Congo offers a sobering picture of what life without access to modern medicine looks like.

For all the controversy about the pharmaceutical industry, which boils down to whether the manufacturers gouge us with exorbitant prices, it sometimes helps to get an outsider’s perspective. And you don’t get much more outside than Jacques Sebisaho, MD, who hails from the island of Idjwi, part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The recent measles outbreak in the United States mystifies Sebisaho because it is fueled in large part by parents who won’t get their children vaccinated because of concerns that that can cause autism and other health problems.

OK, if you don’t want the vaccine, then by all means give it us, Sebisaho more or less says in an opinion piece in Stat. Idjwi’s roads are often impassable and medical supplies difficult to get to, when they’re even available. It’s one of the last of the DRC’s 500 health zones to be supplied with measles vaccine, but that usually doesn’t happen until the death rate rises.

Sebisaho runs the not-for-profit Amani Global Works which works to supply the approximately 300,000 residents of the island with the sort of health care that many living in modern Western democracies take for granted.

Let’s cut to the chase: “If parents in Idjwi were given the chance offered to their American counterparts to easily vaccinate their children, they wouldn’t miss the opportunity for anything in the world,” Sebisaho writes. “Parents in the U.S. shouldn’t, either.”