The IMO President Dr Padraig McGarry has warned that widespread misinformation regarding vaccination programmes poses a huge danger to Irish people and must be combated throughout society.
“I am seriously concerned about the rise of the anti-vax movement and what that means in Ireland,” said Dr McGarry. “Our vaccination programmes keep children and adults alike safe from serious infectious diseases, and it’s terrible to see how misinformation being spread online and offline can convince people not to vaccinate their children.”
Dr McGarry’s warning comes on the back of a UN report which shows that the number of Irish measles cases has risen by 244 per cent, from 25 in 2017 to 86 last year. So far in 2019 in Ireland there have been 48 cases of measles. One case of measles could infect up to 18 people and the only protection is the MMR vaccine, according to the HSE.
“We have seen a significant rise in populism across the Western world in recent years, from which Ireland is not immune,” said Dr McGarry, who is a GP. “With that populism has come a blind faith in ludicrous theories that do nothing but cause harm to people. The rejection and devaluing of evidence-based medical knowledge will make more people sick and endanger lives, and it is up to all of us to fight this misinformation at every turn.”
Statistics from Unicef show that there have been 695 cases of measles in the US this year, the highest number recorded since 1994. Unicef data also shows that 2.5 million children in the US missed their first dose of the MMR vaccine between 2010 and 2017.
Dr McGarry said social media had to shoulder a significant portion of the blame for the rise of anti-vax theories. “Social media’s dark side is real, and it is important that these lies are challenged swiftly and effectively to protect people around the country. It is obvious that in light of this trend, we can no longer take the gains of medicine and science for granted. The simple truth is that vaccines are safe and effective, and all parents should act to protect their children by ensuring they get vaccinated.”