0929 GMT February 28, 2020
While Matt Hancock downplayed suggestions that it would be made illegal not to vaccinate children, he said it could be considered if stalling immunization rates are not addressed, independent.co.uk reported.
Vaccines are “good for you, good for your children, and good for your neighbor” who may have a medical condition that prevents them having the vaccine, he said.
“Those who have promoted the anti-vaccination myth are morally reprehensible, deeply irresponsible and have blood on their hands,” he added.
His comments came in the wake of an investigation by The Times which found 40,000 UK parents are members of a single online group calling for children to be left unimmunized against life-threatening disease.
Social media platforms like Facebook have been seen as key conduits for the spread of ‘anti-vaxxer fake news’ which is having harmful consequences, according to UK health authorities.
However, medical experts blamed government health reforms for falling immunization rates, which have seen MMR uptake drop four years running.
Last month a Unicef report found half a million UK children went unvaccinated over the past seven years.
World Health Organization figures show global measles cases rose 300 percent in the first three months of 2019, compared to the same period last year. The UK also saw its highest number of cases for a decade in 2018.
Hancock said he was ‘completely open to all options’ on bolstering vaccination rations, something which has previously been interpreted to mean banning unvaccinated children from schools.
Asked about the proposals on the BBC’s Today Program MHancock said, “I don’t want to reach the point of compulsory vaccination. I said I’ll rule nothing out, but I don’t want to reach that point, I don’t think we’re near there.”
Doctors were divided on the proposals, anaesthetist Dr Dave Jones backed compulsory vaccination.
But Max Davie of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said they first needed to undo the damage caused by under funding and Conservative-led NHS reforms in 2012 which split responsibility for immunization.
"The difficulty is that the recent spike in UK cases does not appear to be due to a drop in public confidence, but in administrative and resource problems resulting from the split of public health to local authorities," he wrote on Twitter.