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NHS chief warns of rise of anti-vaccine 'fake news' online

Published on 04/03/19 at 10:21am

The head of NHS England has warned that ‘vaccination deniers’ are increasing their influence on social media through ’fake news’.

Speaking at a health summit organised by the Nuffield Trust, Simon Stevens, the Chief Executive of NHS England, said that a parent at his daughter’s own primary school had used WhatsApp to express concerns about her children’s immune system being ‘loaded up’ with vaccines.

“My kids aren’t vulnerable and I think loading up on vaccines blocks their systems from fighting disease as it should do,” the WhatsApp message said.

In seeking to stem the rise of anti-vaccine information online, Stevens said that NHS England was considering what action could be taken to prevent the spread of misinformation.

“One thing we are very concerned about at the moment is around... what is happening to vaccinations in this country,” Stevens said. “Across the world, two to three million lives are saved each year by vaccination.”

“But as part of the fake news movement, actually the vaccination deniers are getting some traction. Last year, for example, we saw more than triple the number of measles cases across England than we had seen the year before despite the fact that clearly vaccination works. We have seen a five-year steady decline in the vaccination uptake.”

“We are not being helped on this front by the fact that although nine in 10 parents support vaccination, half of them say they have seen fake messages about vaccination on social media”

“We have a responsibility for the nine out of 10 to really explain it’s not just of interest for your own children but herd immunity for other children as well.”

“The fact that the MMR for five-year-olds is 87.5% as against the 95% the WHO (World Health Organization) says it should be is a real problem.”

Louis Goss

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