Hancock ‘wouldn’t rule out’ banning unvaccinated children from school

Worrying rise in children missing MMR vaccine has to be tackled, says health secretary

Worrying rise in children missing MMR vaccine has to be tackled, says health secretary

Picture: iStock

Health secretary Matt Hancock has said he ‘wouldn’t rule out anything’, when asked whether unvaccinated children should be banned from schools.

Speaking on TalkRadio, Mr Hancock said the UK is ‘not there yet’ in relation to issuing a ban, as has happened in some parts of the United States, as well as France and Italy.

New figures from Unicef show that more than half a million children in the UK who were due to receive their first vaccination against measles between 2010 and 2017 did not receive it.

Mr Hancock told the breakfast show he was very worried about the issue, adding: ‘It's a responsibility on everybody to get vaccinated.’

When asked if he would consider meeting education secretary Damian Hinds to discuss following in the footsteps of France and the US, he replied: ‘I wouldn't rule out anything, but I don't think we're there yet.’

Lies on social media

Earlier, Mr Hancock said the rise in people not vaccinating their children had to be tackled, and that he was ‘particularly worried’ about the spread of anti-vaccination messages online.

He said he planned to meet social media companies on 29 April to ‘require that they do more to take down lies that are promoted on social media about the impact of vaccinations’.

In England in 2017 there were 259 measles cases, but this figure escalated to 966 in 2018.

Uptake of second dose

Two doses of measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine are required to ensure full protection from measles.

In 2016 and 2017, uptake of the first dose of the vaccine in five year olds in the UK exceeded 95% for the first time. However, uptake of the second dose was 88% – well below the 95% World Health Organisation target.

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said: ‘With measles cases almost quadrupling in England in just one year, it is grossly irresponsible for anyone to spread scare stories about vaccines, and social media firms should have a zero-tolerance approach towards this dangerous content.’

Dispelling vaccination myths: tips from the US

US non-profit organisation Nurses Who Vaccinate was set up in 2011 by nurse Melody Butler to dispel vaccination myths.

Nurse and vaccination campaigner
Melody Butler.

The organisation has recently focused on encouraging measles vaccination uptake in New York, in light of the outbreak in the city. As of 24 April, there were 200 confirmed cases of measles in Rockland County and a further 390 confirmed cases in Brooklyn and Queens,

Ms Butler said the organisation is trying to ‘encourage adults to double-check their history of being vaccinated’ against measles, as some may not realise they need two doses to be fully protected. They have also teamed up with the Orthodox Jewish Association to address the high number of measles cases in the Jewish community.

The best way to increase uptake is to ‘get the message out earlier’, Ms Butler said. ‘Most parents have made up their mind if they are going to vaccinate or not during the pregnancy.’

However, she added the focus should not only be on early years: ‘There is an opportunity for vaccine advocacy in every type of nursing field, whether you are in a nursing home, oncology, or in a hospital.’

‘If you can’t vaccinate the patient, there is always an opportunity to educate the patient’s family, so they can vaccinate to protect the patient.’

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