Ministers must reverse the falling vaccination rates that are putting lives at risk
If we do not restore trust and importance to the vital role vaccinations play, lives will be risked, and lives will be lost, says Layla Moran MP.
Being vaccinated is not just about keeping yourself safe or protecting your children. It is about the role we play in society and the responsibility we all have to ensure those who cannot be vaccinated are protected.
When vaccination rates fall, lives are put at risk. In National Vaccination Week, surely, it’s time for the Conservatives to step up to the plate and do something to end this trend.
Over the last few weeks in the United States, there has been a growing health crisis. The measles virus has been spreading and a public health emergency has been declared. Children who have not been vaccinated are being excluded from school and are not allowed to play in playgrounds.
Before I became an MP, I was a teacher and it is heart-breaking to think of the children whose education is being disrupted because vaccination rates are falling.
Worryingly, America is not isolated in falling immunisation rates. Rates of vaccination are in decline at home in England. Coverage for the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine decreased in 2017-18 for the fourth year in a row. The World Health Organisation advises 95% population immunity but across England this is not being achieved.
We should be absolutely ashamed that we are inviting such warnings from the WHO.
The reasons for the fall are numerous and complex. One explanation is that in a world where dangerous viruses have been reduced or irradiated, it is not a priority for parents to have their children vaccinated.
Another reason, which compounds the first reason, is the problem of logistics for parents. For many parents it can be difficult to get to an appointment for a vaccination – lack of public transport links to get to appointments, taking time off work, busy GPs and so on.
A third and ominous reason is the rise of figures such as Donald Trump. Those whose political career relies on the narrative of suspicion and hostility have stoked and spread fear of vaccinations based on discredited research or “fake news”. And in a global world these fears, much like viruses, spread beyond borders.
This is all happening on the Conservative Government’s watch.
The Tories need to be doing more. Much more. They need to launch a national campaign that raises awareness of the importance of immunisation, reminds parents to have their children vaccinated, and challenges the damaging and dangerous information promoted by figures such as Trump on the back of discredited research.
We are part of a global world, and so we also need to challenge this trend on a global scale. I am a proud European and internationalist, as well as being a proud Liberal Democrat MP, and for me being a pro-European means believing strong British leadership is strong leadership in the European Union too. The UK must take a leading role in combating the fall in vaccination rates across this country, the EU and the world. It is not only our responsibility as neighbours, friends, and parents, but our responsibility as members of an ever-shrinking globe.
If we do not restore trust and importance to the vital role vaccinations play lives will be risked, and lives will be lost.
Layla Moran is Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and Abingdon.