South Tyneside fighting back over anti-vaccine messages on social media

Health experts in South Tyneside say they are beating social media myths over MMR vaccinations.

Monday, 8th April 2019, 6:00 am
False informatin on social media is hitting MMR vaccine take-up figures. Picture PA

Fewer children in South Tyneside are having the full MMR vaccination, and the NHS officials says vaccine deniers are gaining traction on social media.

Across England, take-up of the vaccine has fallen, with NHS chief executive Simon Stevens blaming anti-vaxxers increasing prominence as “part of the fake news movement”.

Coun Tracey Dixon

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The latest figures show that between April and September 2018, in South Tyneside, 93.8% of children turning five had received the recommended two measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) jabs.

This means around 53 children in the area are not fully vaccinated.

MMR take-up in South Tyneside has dropped since 2014, when 96.6% of five-year-olds had the full course of vaccinations, according to Public Health England.

The target, set by the World Health Organisation, is for 95% coverage.

But counbcil bosses say more recent figures show a take-up of 95.3%.

Coun Tracey Dixon, lead member for independence and wellbeing, said: “Whilst we share the concerns about the impact fake news can have on vaccination rates, in South Tyneside we have consistently good rates of vaccinations for our children, particularly with regard to the full MMR vaccine.

“The latest full year data shows that we had a vaccination rate of 95.3per cent which makes us one of the few local authorities in England to hit the coverage target set out by the World Health Organisation.

“We have achieved this for the last five years and the latest quarterly data for the current year (October to December 18) shows that we currently have a rate of 95.9 per cent which keeps us on track for hitting the WHO target for a sixth consecutive year.

“If anyone has any concerns about getting their child vaccinated I would urge them to talk to their GP or health visitor, as vaccination is the safest and most effective way to protect children from a range of serious and potentially fatal diseases.”

Across England, the proportion of five-year-olds fully immunised against MMR has dropped from 88.5% in 2014 to 86.3% in 2018.

There were more than three times as many measles cases in 2018, as in the previous year.

Mr Stevens said: “We have seen a five-year steady decline in the vaccination uptake.”

Mr Stevens explained a parent at his own daughter’s primary school had used social media to express concern about children’s immune systems being “loaded up” with vaccines.

“We are not being helped on this front by the fact that although nine in 10 parents support vaccination, half of them say they have seen fake messages about vaccination on social media.”