EVERYONE is blaming anti-vaxxers for the current measles outbreak and using it as yet another excuse to police social media and suppress free speech. 

But this article from Nursing in Practice explains that anti-vaxxer messages are not the main reason for the lack of uptake.

It says: ‘Given the extensive coverage of the scandal in the press and the prevalent position of anti-vaccination groups in the news and social media, you’d be forgiven for assuming that false messaging about vaccination is one of the main drivers behind the lack of measles vaccine uptake.

‘But north London GP Dr Ellie Cannon believes that access to vaccination services is a bigger issue for today’s general practices. “Although there’s an impression that anti-vaxxers or vaccine refusers are to blame, that’s not thought to be the main cause for the lack of uptake. It has more to do with ease of access [to services],” she says.

‘There are many groups of people who are vulnerable – certain ethnic groups, travelling families, people with chaotic lifestyles – who are not being vaccinated. It’s because of a lack of access to appointments: for example, if they have difficulty registering with a GP or getting to appointments at certain times. It’s not [always] what we think – logistics, organisation and access are barriers for these groups.’

You might have thought that the fact that London has almost double the non-uptake rate of the rest of the country (1 in 4 vs 1 in 7) would have been a sign that it may be ethnicity related, given that minorities make up a majority of Londoners.

The article says: ‘In a survey of around 2,600 UK parents, the report found that almost half of parents agreed that timing or availability of appointments were a barrier to access. Childcare duties were the next most popular reason for not accessing appointments, with just under a third of parents agreeing this was a barrier.’

It adds: ‘Public Health England (PHE) has also urged general practices to take steps to improve access for those at risk of not attending for routine immunisations. In an interview with the Pharmaceutical Journal earlier this year, Jamie Lopez Bernal, a consultant epidemiologist in the Immunisation and Countermeasures Division at PHE, said: “While vaccine hesitancy may be a factor for a small minority of parents, we know from our parental attitudinal surveys that confidence in the immunisation programme is high – the proportion of parents with concerns that would make them consider not having their child immunised has been at an all-time low for the past three years. Timing, availability and location of appointments have been identified as barriers to vaccination by parents and healthcare professionals.”’

It concludes: ‘Dr Cannon, however, believes that access should be the most important area of focus for those working on the front line. “There’s not much we can do to change the beliefs of anti-vaxxers,” she says. “It is part of the reason for the lack of uptake, but it’s the part we probably can’t change.”’

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