HALF a million kids could be banned from school if parents refuse to give them the measles jab, the health secretary has warned.
Matt Hancock said he is “particularly worried” about vaccination scare stories spread on the likes of Facebook and YouTube.
AFP or licensors Health secretary Matthew Hancock warned today kids could be banned from schools if they haven’t had the MMR jab – amid a rise in measles
Social media ‘must do more to stop anti-vaxx lies’
And he revealed he will meet social media firms on Monday to demand they “do more to take down lies” promoted on their sites.
Health chiefs have warned the fake posts are putting mums and dads off giving their children the potentially lifesaving jab.
In 1998 Dr Andrew Wakefield claimed there was a link between the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism.
His research has been discredited and he has been struck off in the UK.
Subsequent studies have found no link but people still spread fake scare stories.
500,000 Brit kids at risk of measles
Hancock issued his warning after Unicef revealed more than half a million UK kids have not had their MMR jab.
Cases of deadly measles virus have increased almost four-fold in England over the past year following a fall in uptake.
Unicef says more kids are left unprotected against the virus and revealed “fear or scepticism about vaccines” is behind some of the fall.
Mr Hancock told the BBC Radio 4 today programme: “I’m not relaxed about this at all.
“One of the things I am particularly worried about is the spread of anti-vaccination messages online.
“I have called in the social media companies, like we had to with self-harming images a few months ago.
“I’m seeing them on Monday to require that they do more to take down lies that are promoted on social media about the impact of vaccination.
“Vaccination is safe, it’s very, very important for the public health – for everybody’s health – and we’re going to tackle it.”
‘I won’t rule out school ban’
Asked on Talk Radio if children should be banned from school unless they are vaccinated, he said: “I wouldn’t rule out anything, but I don’t think we’re there yet.”
Children should have two doses of the jab to be protected, with the World Health Organisation setting a target of 95 per cent coverage.
Unicef estimate 169million children worldwide missed the first dose of the measles jab between 2010 and 2017, with 527,000 in the UK.
Uptake of both jabs by the age of five has fallen in England for four years in a row, from 88.6 per cent in 2014-15 to 87.2 per cent in 2017-18.
There were 259 measles cases in England in 2017, rising to 966 in 2018.
Public health ‘timebomb’, NHS boss warns
NHS boss Simon Stevens has warned of a “public health timebomb”. And he called on social media firms to adopt a “zero tolerance” approach to the fake posts.
But Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at Public Health England, said: “It’s not quite as bad as it seems.”
She added: “The numbers from Unicef that talk about 500,000 are an exaggeration slightly because they have used the coverage we measure at two years.
“And we know a lot of children don’t get the vaccine on time and get it a little bit later, and so by five years coverage is higher.
“We are always worried about children not being vaccinated and we are always doing as much as we can to get children up to date.
What are measles and what are the symptoms and can you get the disease if you’ve had the MMR vaccine?Measles is a highly contagious viral illness that can be prevented by taking the MMR vaccine.
Because of the medical injection available, cases are relatively uncommon. But instances can spike rapidly if an outbreak occurs.
While the infectious condition often clears up in under two weeks, it can sometimes lead to life-threatening complications.
Although measles can affect people of any age, and we have seen outbreaks among university students, it is most common in young children.
Public Health England has confirmed the UK has seen a rise in cases in 2018, with 643 confirmed cases of measles so far this year, compared to just 267 for the whole of 2017.
Health experts have said it is part of a rise in cases across Europe.
The illness is highly contagious and is easily spread from person to person.
Viruses can be expelled when an infected person coughs or sneezing.
In rare cases, measles can be fatal.
If you suspect you or one of your family members is infected, notify your GP to arrange an appointment.
Approximately 10 days after the illness is contracted, signs become noticeable.
The NHS outlines the initial symptoms of measles…
cold-like symptoms, such as a runny nose, sneezing, and a cough
sore, red eyes that may be sensitive to light
a high temperature (fever), which may reach around 40C (104F)
small greyish-white spots on the inside of the cheeks
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“Confidence in vaccination, our studies show, is at an all-time high. Concerns about MMR have fallen dramatically from ten to twenty years ago.
“And there is only a very small proportion of parents who refuse to take one or more vaccines.“There is stuff on social media that might persuade people not to vaccinate.
“Our work suggests that actually the public are quite sceptical about what they see on social media and actually they do trust the health professionals.”
A Government spokesman told The Sun: “We ask schools to check what immunisations a child has had when they join a school but our guidance clearly states that schools cannot refuse admission or exclude a pupil because they have not been immunised.”
Earlier this year it emerged measles cases have hit a decade high across the UK and Europe, as anti-vaxers “scare parents” off having their kids vaccinated.
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