A message for anyone planning to refuse Covid vaccine – leader comment

Boris Johnson was blunt about 'anti-vaxxers' who oppose vaccinationBoris Johnson was blunt about 'anti-vaxxers' who oppose vaccination
Boris Johnson was blunt about 'anti-vaxxers' who oppose vaccination
The evidence for the beneficial effects of vaccines is utterly overwhelming.

It is estimated that vaccines currently save the lives of two to three million people worldwide every year and that, if only more people could be inoculated, a further 1.5 million deaths would be prevented.

The ability to immunise people against diseases such as diphtheria, tetanus, measles, whooping cough, influenza and others has been such a boon to humanity that you might think no one could doubt its efficacy. Indeed, smallpox, once a deadly scourge, was declared to be eradicated from the world in 1979.

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However, according to the World Health Organisation, “vaccine hesitancy” is now one of the top ten health threats with so-called ‘anti-vaxxers’ spreading dangerous myths that they can cause harm. Boris Johnson spoke bluntly but was quite right when he said “they are nuts”, repeating the phrase for effect during a visit to a medical centre in London.

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Given there are people prepared to spread disinformation about vaccines, it is important to stress just how good at saving lives they really are. This is particularly true right now as a vaccine against the strain of coronavirus that causes Covid-19 is absolutely our best hope of beating this terrible disease, stopping the death toll from growing further and getting back to something like normality.

It would allow our economies to bounce back and we would be able to celebrate our good fortune – thanks to the skill of doctors and scientists – by having a party free of social distancing, face masks and guilt.

And yet, according to a poll of more than 1,600 people by YouGov, 16 per cent of people in the UK will “probably” or “definitely” refuse to take a Covid-19 vaccine, with a similar number saying they were unsure about whether they would. Perhaps they have forgotten that the UK was once declared to be completely free of measles, but lost this status last year as vaccination rates fell.

A separate, but related problem, is that rates of childhood vaccination have fallen because of the disruption caused by the coronavirus outbreak. This prompted the British Medical Association to urge the UK Government to take action to reinvigorate immunisation programmes.

Vaccination, ranked alongside clean water supplies in terms of its importance to human health, is a tried and tested method to help us beat some of the most deadly diseases. We forget that at our peril.

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