Anti-vaxxers are taking populism to a new, deadly level | Gaby Hinsliff

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From the US to Italy, a distrust of elites and expertise is now becoming a public health crisis

The two men rode into the village on a motorbike, eyewitnesses said, and opened fire. They left one woman dead and another injured, and a trail of fear in their wake. Both women were vaccination workers trying to save children from polio, and in parts of Pakistan that is a dangerous thing to be. Medical teams have repeatedly been attacked amid rumours, fuelled by Islamist militants, that a national drive to eradicate the disease is cover for a western plot to sterilise children or gather intelligence.

In Nigeria, too, the extremist group Boko Haram has murdered vaccination workers, attempting to frighten families out of having their babies protected. British parents don’t know how lucky we are, with our nice, safe NHS surgeries and our children who have the vast unfathomable luck to be born right here and now: winners of the historical lottery, a generation for whom the eradication of so many infectious diseases is within sight. Or it could be, if some in the west seemingly weren’t doing their damnedest to die of ignorance instead.

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