The Secretary of State for Health has said that banning children from school remains an option – following the steps taken by countries such as France and Italy.
Matt Hancock said on Talk Radio that he “wouldn’t rule out anything” when asked whether unvaccinated children should be banned from entering schools.
Though Mr Hancock did say that the Government was “not there yet” in taking the measure.
He said he was very worried about the issue, adding: “It’s a responsibility on everybody to get vaccinated.”
Regarding the ban, Mr Hancock said “In America they tried to do this and the courts stopped them so it can be complicated, but really it’s people’s responsibility as a parent to do the right thing – the right thing for their own children as well as, of course, the right of the community that everybody lives in.”
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said that he was meeting social media companies to “require that they do more to take down lies that are promoted on social media about the impact of vaccinations”.
Measles outbreak warning, as reported cases increase by 300%
By Stuart Clarke
With the global resurgence of the highly infectious measles and outbreaks of the disease taking place in first world countries, doctors and teachers are becoming increasingly worried that many children in school in Devon have not been vaccinated with the MMR (Mumps, Measles and Rubella) vaccine.
The headteacher of a Devon primary school told The Moorlander that she is terrified that measles is a ticking time bomb and would go through her school in a flash. Certain towns in Devon have a very low take up of the MMR vaccination programme that falls well below the 95% rate needed for the ‘Herd Immunity’ that protects.
In some parts of Devon this has dropped to as low as 60% and in the past has been as low as 50%.
Last month The Moorlander reported that cases of measles were on the rise with cases reported in Ashburton and Totnes; these outbreaks were confirmed by Public Health England. In the United States vaccination of the MMR has dropped dramatically with over 700 cases in 22 states reported this year.
With many parents objecting on philosophical or religious reasons, others known as ‘anti-vaxxers’ believe the discredited information that vaccines cause autism in children. Finally last week US President Donald Trump told Americans to ‘get their shots’.
Trump’s warning comes as cases are reported at the University of California and Rockland County in New York State where there have been over 150 cases reported and where county officials have told residents and young people under the age of 18 that if they are not vaccinated, to stay away from public areas of the county such as schools and shopping malls.
President Trump’s comments contrast markedly from previous public statement about vaccinations. During a Republican debate in 2015 he suggested vaccines were responsible for what he called an ‘epidemic’ of autism. Trump also spoke with disgraced British Dr Andrew Wakefield; the two met in 2014. Wakefield, who linked the MMR vaccine to autism in 1998 at a time when measles was almost eradicated, he was later struck off, and his findings disproved.
There have been more than 110,000 cases of measles worldwide in the first three months of 2019, a rise of 300% compared to last year according to the World Health Organization.
The spread of ‘Anti Vax’ propaganda is blamed for the dangerous decline in children being vaccinated with even the Russians being blamed for the disinformation put out on social media. Health Secretary Matt Hancock challenged social media companies during a summit on Monday to take down the anti vax material or face the threat of legislation.
He has even said that children who have not been vaccinated with the MMR vaccine should be barred from attending schools until they are vaccinated.
The Health Secretary talked to The Moorlander newspaper last month about the threat of a measles outbreaks in the UK, he said: “Vaccination saves lives, and dropping vaccine rates must be reversed. Its mission critical that we champion science and objective fact to lead the push back against fake news and this worrying trend.”
Social media fertile ground for Anti Vax conspiracies
Anti vaccination conspiracy theories are becoming more popular on social media sites. The dynamics of social media platforms such as Facebook, mean that anti-vax groups can share information and further re-enforce any preconceived notions of the effects of vaccinations.
One group called Anti-vax Parents UK describes the page as “A page that’s here to help stop the spread of bad information concerning Anti-vax groups and the movement in general”. The page also reads: “All anti-vax people are welcome and even those who support vaccines are welcome as well, as long as things are kept civil. We’re here to share facts and the truth. Please see the pinned post in the announcements for more info about the dangers of vaccines”.
‘Anti-vax Parents’ has two thousand members and is one of a number of similar groups, easily found on Facebook. Just as with political discourse, social media users are particularly vulnerable to unverified or misinformation when it comes to vaccinations statistics. Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said that internet firms have a “duty of care” to their users and legislation may be needed to enforce this. The Health Secretary had meetings with social media bosses this week, in which a plan to help fight disinformation was agreed to.
The Health Secretary told MPs that tech giants including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have pledged to work with the Samaritans in removing dangerous content. In a statement in the Commons, he said: “As a result of yesterday’s summit, the leading global social media companies have agreed to work with experts from the Samaritans, to speed up the identification and removal of suicide and self-harm content, and create greater protections online.
“They’ll not only financially support the work, but crucially, Samaritans’ suicide prevention experts will determine what is harmful and dangerous content, and the social media platform is committed to either remove it or prevent others from seeing it, and help vulnerable people get the positive support they need.”