Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called for social media companies to help crack down on anti-vaxx fake news content following an increase in the number of measles cases.
Johnson called for a summit of social media companies to discuss how they can “play their part” in promoting accurate information about vaccinations. Concerns are growing over social media’s role in the rise of ‘anti-vaxx’ content which is creating an air of increased scepticism among parents in the UK.
Recently published statistics show that 966 cases of measles were confirmed by authorities across the UK last year; this equates to nearly a four-fold increase compared to 2017. The first quarter of 2019 alone has seen 231 confirmed cases of the disease, according to Public Health England.
Similarly, in the past year, the percentage of children who received nine of the 12 routine vaccinations against diseases such as measles also fell. Only 87% of eligible children receive their second dose of the vaccine, and this fall in the uptake of the MMR jab now means that the UK has lost its measles-free status three years after it was declared as eliminated.
“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,” Johnson said during a visit to a hospital in the South West. “One case of this horrible disease is too many, and I am determined to step up our efforts to tackle its spread.”
The Prime Minister added: “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.”
Earlier this year, Facebook announced it would crack down on antivaccination posts, deceptive ‘miracle cures’ and misleading health claims.
The announcement from the social media giant outlined changes to its algorithm to repress “sensational” content appearing on the platform’s news feed.
Facebook, along with Twitter, have faced intense pressure on a global scale to stem the spread of anti-vaxx material. Speaking at the time, Facebook product manager Travis Yeh said: “In order to help people get accurate health information and the support they need, it’s imperative that we minimise health content that is sensational or misleading.
“We know that people don’t like posts that are sensational or spammy, and misleading health content is particularly bad for our community.”