Britain has lost its “measles-free” status just three years after the virus was eliminated – there were more than 230 new cases of measles recorded in the first quarter of 2019.
British prime minister, Boris Johnson, has called for a summit of social media companies to discuss how they could promote accurate information about the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine.
“The UK generally has a great record on fighting measles, but for the first time we’re suddenly going in the wrong direction,” Johnson said on a visit to a hospital in Truro, south-west England.
“I’m afraid people have just been listening to that superstitious mumbo-jumbo on the internet, all that anti-vax stuff, and thinking that the MMR vaccine is a bad idea. That’s wrong, please get your kids vaccinated.”
Johnson added that some parents were also complacent about making sure their children receive their second doses of the MMR vaccine.
Johnson’s office said that just 87% of children are currently getting their second dose of the jab. The government has a target of 95% of children to get both doses of the jab.
“It’s not just the right thing for them, but also, of course, its the right thing for the whole population,” Johnson said. “It might not be your kid that gets it, it could be somebody else’s.”
Measles, which is almost entirely preventable with two doses of vaccine, is making a comeback globally. In the first half of the year, there have been almost three times as many cases as the same time last year.
Cases globally are at the highest level since 2006, according to the World Health Organization. This is due mainly to wild, unscientific hysteria being whipped up online by extremist anti-vaxxer groups.
“After a period of progress where we were once able to declare Britain measles free, we’ve now seen hundreds of cases of measles in the UK this year. One case of this horrible disease is too many, and I am determined to step up our efforts to tackle its spread,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement.
“This is a global challenge and there’s a number of reasons why people don’t get themselves or their children the vaccines they need, but we need decisive action across our health service and society to make sure communities are properly immunized.”