Intended for healthcare professionals


Information wars: tackling the threat from disinformation on vaccines

BMJ 2019; 365 doi: (Published 13 May 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;365:l2144


Rebuilding trust in immunisation is key to tackling vaccine hesitancy


We have reached the point where we should consider compulsory vaccination

  1. Martin McKee, professor of European public health1,
  2. John Middleton, president2
  1. 1London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK
  2. 2Faculty of Public Health, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to: M McKee Martin.McKee{at}

Closing down trolls, bots, and content polluters would be a start

In April 2019, Unicef and the World Health Organization highlighted a global surge of measles.12 There were 966 cases of measles confirmed in the United Kingdom in 2018, nearly four times as many as in 20173; 91.2% of 2 year olds in England had been given the MMR vaccine in 2018, down from 92.7% in 2013-14,4 with both rates below the 95% considered necessary to prevent transmission in the population. Those seeking an explanation have highlighted the role played by disinformation spread through social media. The English secretary of state for health, Matt Hancock, described “those promoting the antivaccine myth as having blood on their hands,” adding that he was “completely open to all options” on how to bolster vaccination rates, including making immunisations compulsory.5

Vaccine hesitancy is recognised as a major challenge in many EU member states.6 Although overall confidence in vaccines remains high, with 83% of respondents across all member states regarding them as safe and 88% as effective,7 the figures are much …

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