Should parents have the option not to vaccinate their children?
Vaccine refusal is a “growing public health timebomb”, the head of the NHS has warned.
More than half a million children in the UK were not vaccinated against measles over an eight-year period, new figures show.
The charity Unicef said increasing numbers of youngsters are being left unprotected against measles, which can cause disability and death.
Inaccurate and misleading anti-vaccination messages on social media are thought to be one reason why vaccination rates are plummeting.
Unicef’s analysis shows that an estimated 169 million children around the world missed out on the first dose of the measles vaccine between 2010 and 2017 – an average of 21.1 million a year.
Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said: “Getting yourself and your children vaccinated against killer diseases is essential to staying healthy, and vaccine rejection is a serious and growing public health timebomb.
“With measles cases almost quadrupling in England in just one year, it is grossly irresponsible for anybody to spread scare stories about vaccines, and social media firms should have a zero tolerance approach towards this dangerous content.”
A list of 10 high-income countries, published by Unicef, shows the US has the highest number of children missing out on their first dose of the vaccine.
Between 2010 and 2017, some 2,593,000 youngsters in the US did not have their first dose of the vaccine.
The second most affected country was France, with 608,000 unvaccinated children over the same time period, followed by the UK, with 527,000.
Other countries including Argentina, Italy, Japan, Canada, Germany and Australia also made the top 10.
Unicef executive director Henrietta Fore said: “The measles virus will always find unvaccinated children.
“If we are serious about averting the spread of this dangerous but preventable disease, we need to vaccinate every child, in rich and poor countries alike.”
In the first three months of 2019, more than 110,000 measles cases were reported worldwide – up almost 300% on the same period the year before.
An estimated 110,000 people, most of them children, died from measles in 2017, a 22% rise on the previous year.
Children need two doses of the vaccine for protection, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommending 95% coverage to achieve herd immunity, which offers protection against the disease spreading in the community.
In the UK in 2017, there were 259 measles cases in England, rising to 966 in 2018.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the rise in people not vaccinating had to be tackled, and that he was “particularly worried” about the spread of anti-vaccination messages online.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that he was meeting social media companies on Monday to “require that they do more to take down lies that are promoted on social media about the impact of vaccinations”.
He said: “Vaccination is safe, it’s very, very important for the public health – for everybody’s health – and we’re going to tackle it.”
Are you concerned about anti-vaccination messages online? Should parents be required to vaccinate their children, or should they have the option to opt out of the vaccinations if they so choose? Share your opinions in the comments below.
What are your views?
We'd love to hear your comments
Community Terms & Conditions
These content standards apply to any and all material which you contribute to our site (contributions), and to any interactive services associated with it.
You must comply with the spirit of the following standards as well as the letter. The standards apply to each part of any contribution as well as to its whole.
be accurate (where they state facts); be genuinely held (where they state opinions); and comply with applicable law in the UK and in any country from which they are posted.
Contributions must not:
contain any material which is defamatory of any person; or contain any material which is obscene, offensive, hateful or inflammatory; or promote sexually explicit material; or promote violence; promote discrimination based on race, sex, religion, nationality, disability, sexual orientation or age; or infringe any copyright, database right or trade mark of any other person; or be likely to deceive any person; or be made in breach of any legal duty owed to a third party, such as a contractual duty or a duty of confidence; or promote any illegal activity; or be threatening, abuse or invade another’s privacy, or cause annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety; or be likely to harass, upset, embarrass, alarm or annoy any other person; or be used to impersonate any person, or to misrepresent your identity or affiliation with any person; or give the impression that they emanate from us, if this is not the case; or advocate, promote or assist any unlawful act such as (by way of example only) copyright infringement or computer misuse.
Nurturing a safe environment
Our Silversurfers community is designed to foster friendships, based on trust, honesty, integrity and loyalty and is underpinned by these values.
We don't tolerate swearing, and reserve the right to remove any posts which we feel may offend others... let's keep it friendly!