There is a “very strong” case for making it compulsory for school children to be vaccinated, the health secretary has said.
Matt Hancock revealed he had been given legal advice on the topic in recent days and was looking at the issue of falling vaccination rates.
Appearing at a fringe event on the sidelines of the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, Mr Hancock said social media sites had “a lot to answer for” for spreading anti-vaccine views.
“We need a massive drive to get these vaccination rates back up,” he told the HuffPostUK event.
“I said before that we should be open minded, and frankly, what I’d say is that when we – the state – provide services to people, then it’s a two-way street, you have got to take your responsibilities too.
“So I think there is a very strong argument for having compulsory vaccinations for children when they go to school because otherwise they are putting other children at risk.”
Mr Hancock added that Britain losing its measles-free status should be a “real wake-up call”.
“I have received advice inside government this week on how we might go about it [making vaccinations compulsory] and I’m looking very seriously at that,” he said.
“I am very worried about falling rates of vaccinations, especially measles. For measles the falling vaccination rates are a serious problem.
“And it’s unbelievable, I think, that Britain has lost its measles-free status, and it should be a real wake-up call.
“The worst thing is that if you don’t vaccinate your child and you can, then the person you are putting at risk is not only your own child, but it’s also the child who can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons – maybe they have got cancer so their immune system is too weak, and they are losing what’s called ‘the herd immunity’ that you get from when over 95% of people are vaccinated.”
Recent NHS figures have recorded a continuing decline in the proportion of children getting all NHS childhood jabs, including the combined measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine and those for meningitis.
Experts have said that parents are falling victim to “toxic myths” on social media.
Author: Alan Mcguinness