Boris Johnson urges social media firms to clamp down on anti-vaccination fake news

Posted On: 
19th August 2019

Boris Johnson has urged social media companies to do more to tackle the spread of misleading anti-vaccination claims online after Britain was stripped of its "measles-free" status.

The World Health Organisation is no longer able to declare the UK measles-free.
Credit: 
PA

The Prime Minister - who will visit a hospital in Cornwall of England on Monday - said he was "determined to step up our efforts" to tackle the spread of measles, amid fears that a concerted 'anti-vaxx' movement is halting progress in treating the disease.

The intervention comes after the UK lost the measles "virus-free" status awarded by the World Health Organisation, with 231 confirmed cases logged in the first quarter of 2019.

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Currently just 87% of children are receiving their second dose of the MMR vaccine, a move Number 10 said had "likely contributed to the spread of measles".

Mr Johnson is calling for a renewed push to get that rate up to 95%, and Downing Street said the Prime Minister would also chair a summit of social media firms to "discuss how they can play their part in promoting accurate information about vaccination".

The Prime Minister said: "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.

"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 immunised.

"From reassuring parents about the safety of vaccines, to making sure people are attending follow-up appointments, we can and must do more to halt the spread of infectious, treatable diseases in modern-day Britain."

That view was echoed by Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who said it was "easy to forget how devastating measles can be precisely because vaccines are so effective at preventing it in the first place".

As well as the social media summit, Number 10 said NHS England would write to GPs to urge them to do more to promote "catch-up" vaccination programmes for young people who have not had two doses of the MMR jab.

The Government also vowed to update the advice on the official NHS.uk website to "address misleading information about the dangers of vaccines".

Ministers have promised a "comprehensive strategy to address the issue" will be published in the autumn.