Parents have a moral duty to give their children the MMR jab because skipping it endangers their lives, warns Health Secretary Matt Hancock
- Matt Hancock says unvaccinated youngsters may catch measles themselves
- Says that while parents think decision is 'personal choice', they have 'moral' duty
- His warning comes two weeks after the Mail launched vaccination campaign
Parents who shun the MMR jab are endangering the lives of babies and seriously ill children, the Health Secretary warns today.
Matt Hancock says unvaccinated youngsters may catch measles themselves and then infect vulnerable, high-risk patients.
He says that while parents might think their decisions on jabs are a 'personal choice' and 'nobody else's business', they in fact have a 'moral' duty.
Writing for today's Mail, Mr Hancock states: 'The reality is that by choosing not to vaccinate their own child, they are choosing to put the lives of vulnerable children at risk – those either too young or too seriously ill to receive the vaccine.'
Matt Hancock (pictured) says unvaccinated youngsters may catch measles themselves and then infect vulnerable, high-risk patients
Babies do not receive the first dose of the MMR jab until they are about 13 months old, as it is unlikely to be effective if given earlier.
Other young children may be advised to avoid the jab, including those with cancer, leukaemia, severe asthma or organ transplant recipients.
Mr Hancock's blunt warning to parents comes two weeks after the Mail launched a major campaign to improve vaccination uptake.
The latest NHS figures show that the number of children receiving the two doses of the MMR jab – for measles, mumps and rubella – is at its lowest in seven years. In some parts of England – including middle-class London boroughs – a third of five-year-olds have not received their vaccinations.
Cases of measles and mumps have surged in recent years and both diseases can lead to fatal complications, including swelling of the brain.
The Health Secretary, who has three young children, says 'the case for vaccination is not only a scientific argument, but also a moral one'. He accuses parents who avoid vaccinations – known as 'anti-vaxxers' – of both ignorance and complacency.
The Mail is calling on the Government to launch a mass awareness drive to reassure parents that jabs are both safe and essential.
We also want the NHS to introduce text-message reminders to alert busy families of upcoming vaccinations.
He says that while parents might think their decisions on jabs are a 'personal choice' and 'nobody else's business', they in fact have a 'moral' duty (file image)
Last month Mr Hancock revealed he was taking legal advice about introducing compulsory childhood vaccinations. Countries including France and the US have already made certain jabs mandatory for all children in state schools.
But doctors say imposing such laws in this country would have adverse consequences and create mistrust among families. The Department of Health says compulsory vaccinations would be a last resort if other policies to improve uptake failed.
Figures from NHS Digital show that only 86 per cent of five-year-olds received both doses of the MMR jab in 2018/19, the lowest since 2011/12. But in the London boroughs of Westminster, Hackney and Kensington and Chelsea, up to 36 per cent of children have not been immunised.
Justine Roberts, founder of the parenting website Mumsnet said: 'Parents who are worried about vaccinations need to have time and space to talk through their concerns with qualified health professionals, and more should be done to make vaccination appointments easy to access.'
Mail campaign is crucial - It will save lives
By Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care
Last week I joined the Prime Minister in getting a flu jab. It was quick, painless and safe. In 2018, more than 14.5 million people did the same in England – helping us to prevent more than 2,000 hospitalisations and 700 deaths.
Most of us will have caught the flu at some point, and luckily the bulk of us will have found it merely unpleasant and inconvenient.
Yet for people at risk – the elderly, pregnant women and those with pre-existing health conditions – it can be much more serious.
We encourage healthy people to receive the flu jab not just to protect themselves, but to save the lives of the most vulnerable individuals in our society.
This is a crucial point: the case for vaccination is not only a scientific argument, but also a moral one.
Anti-vaxxers ignorantly claim that immunisation is only a question of personal choice. And if they choose to put their own child at risk of measles, mumps or rubella then, they insist, it should be nobody else's business.
Mr Hancock's blunt warning to parents comes two weeks after the Mail launched a major campaign to improve vaccination uptake (file image)
But the reality is that by not vaccinating their child, they are choosing to put the lives of vulnerable children at risk – those either too young or too seriously ill to receive the vaccine.
So what is causing the complacency around the MMR jab? One of the factors is that, unlike flu, few of us have personal experience of measles, mumps or rubella. Measles is a horrible disease. It is highly infectious, causes swelling of the brain, and can lead to deafness and death.
The heart-wrenching case of baby Alba Moss, described so movingly in the Daily Mail earlier this month, conveys the terrible emotions her parents went through seeing their one-year-old daughter fighting for her life after contracting the measles virus.
What made the situation even more painful for the Moss family was the vitriol they received from anti-vaxxers on social media after they encouraged other parents to get their children vaccinated to prevent the same fate befalling their families.
It isn't down to luck that measles cases have plummeted in Britain in the past 50 years. It's due to the success of our world-leading vaccination programmes and years of hard work by our NHS staff.
Vaccination against measles has prevented an estimated 20 million cases of the illness and 4,500 deaths since 1968.
While vaccine uptake is very high at more than 90 per cent, we can't afford to be complacent. The World Health Organisation recently removed Britain's vital 'measles-free' status.
In some parts of the country, including areas of London, a third of children have not received both doses of the jab. Last month, more than 25,000 young people who did not receive the MMR jab as children started at university.
If these teenagers have been fortunate enough not to have contracted measles, mumps, or rubella growing up, then their chances of falling ill with these diseases will increase sharply as they come into contact with each other at university.
There is universal scientific consensus on the MMR vaccine: it's safe, effective and could save the life of your child and other children. So I applaud this timely campaign by the Mail. It will save lives.
Now, what steps can we take to increase vaccine uptake? For a start, as Health Secretary, I want to make it as easy as possible for parents to get their children vaccinated. I therefore welcome the Mail's suggestion of text-message alerts to parents of children who are due to receive vaccinations.
The health service as a whole must embrace technology and recognise that parents and carers have busy lives with competing demands.
Meanwhile, we in government must also urge social media companies to stop the spread of anti-vax propaganda.
But above all else, we must get the message across: vaccination is vital. So let's all work together to challenge complacency and ignorance and do everything we can to ensure every child is protected from these dangerous and preventable diseases.