My diary in this week’s Redditch Standard.
Long before social media had even been invented, and while I was leading post-natal support classes for new parents, I was having heated arguments with anti-vaxxers about the need for children to be vaccinated.
Sadly today, social media has allowed conspiracy theories and misinformation peddled by anti-vaxxers to thrive resulting in a small but steady decline in vaccination uptake in the UK in recent years.
The damaging misinformation spread by anti-vaxxers has lost the UK it’s ‘measles-free’ status with the World Health Organisation (WHO) – just three years after the virus was eliminated in the country. This is really worrying.
They have scared parents into stopping their children from getting vaccinated, not just putting their kids at risk, but everyone else’s kids too.
90% of children in the UK are still receiving their childhood immunisations, but to combat the steady decline in vaccination uptake, it’s absolutely right that the Prime Minister has set out a number of measures aimed at improving vaccination rates, including for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR).
Boris Johnson has called for health leaders to renew their efforts to meet 95% for both doses of MMR. Currently just 87% of children are getting their second dose of the jab, which has likely contributed to the spread of measles.
Part of this strategy will include NHS England writing to GPs urging them to promote ‘catch up’ vaccination programmes for MMR for 10-11 year olds, as well as all those 5-25 year olds who have not had two doses of the jab.
We all know that the conspiracy theories peddled by anti-vaxxers are damaging, pervasive and dangerous, that’s why there will be updated advice for parents on the NHS.uk website specifically to address misleading information about the dangers of vaccines, by giving people NHS-approved, evidence-based and trusted advice on vaccines, including through a new website.
And, as I said at the beginning, social media has enabled conspiracy theories to thrive, with online anti-vaccination movements scaremongering parents. Which is why an absolutely vital part of this strategy set-out by the Prime Minister will be a summit of social media companies to discuss how they can play their part in promoting accurate information about vaccination. Social media companies must play their role in stopping the spread of anti-vaccination conspiracy theories.
All four of my children are vaccinated. Please get your children vaccinated.