Is social media to blame for the measles outbreak? | Viewsbank

Is social media to blame for the measles outbreak?

Measles and the MMR vaccine are big news at the moment – in fact it feels like the story has been getting even more news coverage than Brexit over the last couple of weeks, and with good reason. The latest outbreak is reportedly a 25 year high for the disease in the US, with France and the UK also ranking alongside the US as high income countries with some of the largest numbers of children missing their MMR vaccinations.

So why is this happening? The UK was actually granted measles elimination status by the World Health Organisation in 2017 after all – it seems crazy to think it could all go so wrong so quickly. Governments and news outlets around the world have been taking aim at the growing “anti-vaxxer” movement that appears to be gaining traction recently, well apart from perhaps President Trump and his super helpful thoughts on linking the MMR vaccine with Autism that he’s thankfully since retracted. He’s now calling on all Americans to “get their shots” in case you missed that one.

Many people will remember that the MMR vaccine was controversially linked to autism back in the 90s by former British doctor Andrew Wakefield who published a fraudulent research paper linking the two. It was later discovered that Wakefield had been paid by attorneys of parents who were suing the vaccine manufacturers and that his data was fraudulent. He was eventually struck off by the General Medical Council after being found guilty of professional misconduct. None of this mattered though – the anti-vaxxer community were quick to latch on this “research”, finally claiming to have the proof they needed, and it’s something that has taken time to fade from people’s minds.

However, now some of these theories appear to be making a comeback, with the latest figures suggesting that more than half a million children in the UK missed their first dose of MMR between 2010 and 2017, just behind France at 608,000, and the US with a staggering 2.6 million. Many have been quick to point the finger at social media and the fake news epidemic that we’ve been hearing about over the past couple of years or so, but how true is it? We thought we’d run a few questions past our members in last week’s Omnibus survey to find out about their experiences.

To set the scene and gather our member’s thoughts on vaccinations in general, we asked on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being “I do not believe that children should be vaccinated at all” and 5 being “Vaccinations for children in the UK should be compulsory”, what our members thought. Encouragingly, 81% of 1,059 nationally representative respondents put either a 4 or a 5, with the majority of those answering with 5. Just 6% put their answer as either a 1 or a 2, with the remaining 13% sitting on the fence and believing that it should be up to the parents as to whether they vaccinate their children.

The big question came at the end – we wanted to know whether our members had seen or heard any advice or information from so called anti-vaxxers in the last few months and the results were interesting. While we found that 27% had never seen or heard of this type of content before, and a further 27% had heard of this type of content but hadn’t seen it personally, a fairly high 25% had seen anti-vaxxer content on social media in the last few months. Furthermore, 21% of respondents reported seeing this type of content online and 14% have either heard or had a conversation with someone about it. Staggeringly, the most dedicated anti-vaxxers out there appear to be so determined to spread their message that they’re going door to door – with 5% of respondents reporting that they’ve received this type of content through their door, and while thankfully a fairly low number, a still worrying 6% of respondents reported sharing anti-vaxxer content themselves in the last few months.

While it’s clear then that anti-vaxxer content is not finding its way to everyone, it’s still quite concerning that so many of our respondents have been exposed to this type of content in some way in the last few months, and our research does seem to suggest that while social media isn’t the only culprit here, it certainly appears to be the place where you’re most likely to run into this content.

What do you think about the current measles outbreak? Do you think social media is to blame? Let us know in the comments – we look forward to reading them.


I thought it was poor research that was published (that ended up on social media) that started these fears

true but the typical hysteria lies on social media made it much worse

Social media is just a tool, it's the numpties that read this stuff and don't bother checking out the validity of it that are to blame. There was one study, which has since been debunked and even discounted by the researcher who undertook it, that suggested a causal link. If these brain donors bothered to do a bit of cursory research they'd discover that's the case.

I'd be suing them for knowingly spreading disease, to me it's the same as causing actual bodily harm.

It doesn't help but people need to really understand the implications of not vaccinating. I can remember my aunt who was a district nurse and midwife saying "if you had been in a ward full of children suffering from this then you wouldn't hesitate to vaccinate"

Too much false and negative information on the social media, it should be monitored !!!!

I can remember my

It is down to poor parenthood I believe

I do believe they had 'measles' parties many years ago. Strange how much things change over the years. I had measles when I was little and it completely discoloured my teeth, it could have been much worse I know so I must think myself lucky.

No i dont just blame Social Media although it didnt help they were not the root But common sense should have prevailed ,The outbreaks that were once irradicated  the parents should be outed 

No i dont think it social media

I don’t think social media is to blame it could be the only way some parents get to understand the importance of the illness that can cause problems with there children

Parents swayed by conflicting reports

I was sent out to catch it when a friend had it in the 50’.

Yes absolutely. Too many people able to put unsupported views with the unsuspecting ready to accept it without question

When I was little if anyone had measles,scarlet fever etc my mum use to take me to their houses she thought it was best to expose.
I think if jabs were offered in separate doses it might make parents happier.
My son had all his jabs I never thought about it.
Not sure if that makes me a bad parent

This is a notable example of the way that social media have caused harm because of their unregulated nature which enables opinionated individuals with no practical or professional knowledge of a subject to make claims about it which go unchallenged and consequently gain influnce that has no basis in truth.  There is an old Russian proverb, often quoted by Ronald Reagan during his presidency, which translates as, "Trust but verify."  It is wise advice: it counsels that we should not distrust everything around us, even if our instincts prompt us to do so, but crucially we should not trust blindly either.  It is that verification process that is missing in the matters referred to in this forum, and in short, poisonous nonsense has taken hold as a result.  That is the root cause of the resurgence of measles, something we would have thought to be impossible only a few years ago, and it is the pollutant we call social media that has planted it.  There will be a heavy price to pay in the storm that is now inevitable before order is restored, but we need not have got into this situation in the first place, and before some even higher toll is demanded of us, it is now time to bring the heaviest regulatory powers to bear on the appalling misnomer that is social media, and never more so than with the mighty and arrogant Facebook. 

Social media spread the faulty research but it is really due to parents not researching it properly. I had my daughters vacinated and this was when Wakefield had just published his research, it took very little thought as I know that measles can lead to serious health problems and in some cases kill.

As it is measles itself that is the main problem the government could offer vaccinations as they use to without everyone having to have the rubella vaccination, which is really only needed for the females. If they were to offer this I believe parents would jump at the chance and some may even be willing to pay for the seperate vaccinations. I am a mother and my son was unable to have the vaccination due to a severe egg allergy, so the more children that are vaccinated make it safer for the children who can't. I think the governments stubbornness is responsible.

Every parent has the right to decide and although they may take account of what they read on social media it is still their decision.   So in my opinion no social media is not to blame at all.

I think helps with what you dealing with.

You can learn about you need to do before calling in a medical team.

I think part of the reason is that because it was something that children were not catching parents have wrongly concluded measles is not a dangerous threat. I think that if they are presented with the facts of how dangerous a disease it is parents would vaccinate. I do think some people are swayed by misleading posts on social media but when faced by the stark information of the consequences of the disease would think again about avoiding vaccination.

Too much pressure is put on people now days making them scared

I`m disturbed by this, the study was flawed from the outset and clearly they are manipulating parents by frightening them into believing their is a risk of autism through vaccination. My child caught measles before she was old enough for the vaccination and ended up in hospital for several days, luckily she made a full recovery. There is always a risk with any vaccine but it is much smaller than the risk from the disease but unfortunatley when it comes to children's health, parents are easily frightened and this is understandable. 

A lot don't trust government messages and there needs to be some clear, Scientific information with genuine facts available so parents can make these choices. Social media can spread anything quickly with the shares and likes and this is going to give us a measles outbreak and children will die from complications of Measles. Without 90% being vaccinated, the disease will take hold again in the UK and also the mumps and rubella that goes with the vaccination.

Rubella is a risk to pregnant women and mumps can also be dangerous. Nobody has an issue with the 2-3-4 months vaccinations and only since the Wakefield scandal was there an issue with the MMR. Unfortunately autism does show around the same age as the MMR so it is easy to link the two without the correct Scientific knowledge and understanding. Parents just want the best for their kids, they read this and get scared and pass it to others. 

Parents need real, genuine facts about the dangers of measles and an explanation as to why it is not linked to the MMR. Perhaps this could be taught at school for part of the GCSE Biology which also covers the Thalidomide drugs for debate.

No, how can it be spread by typing on one device and being seen on another? If you mean being more aware of the outbreak then yes maybe but not for causing the outbreak. 

Pretty sure that the anti vaccine lobby started before popular use of social media and now we learn it was based on fraudulent claims. Gullible parents' fears are ignited by social media posts supporting these false theories. Nowadays social media is the main channel for this false data and should accept some responsibility for current outbreaks of illnesses that were near eradication.

Social media can be s dangerous tool in the wrong hands, misinformation can cause hysteria

Social media can be s dangerous tool in the wrong hands, misinformation can cause hysteria

People are continuously looking for the next controversy and the media feed that. Factual reporting that allows parents/guardians make informed, educated decisions about the welfare of their loved ones is essential.

My children were born 1998 & 2001, both have had every immunisation offered to them and neither have had Autism or any other learning difficulties. The problem in that generation was that the Autism link was put down to the combined MMR vaccination but parents had the option to pay for 3 separate injections which was no longer offered on the NHS. Unfortunately, a lot of parents did/could not afford it.

I think it is very selfish of those parents who have not immunised their children as these diseases can be very dangerous and fatal. Unfortunately, although my children have been immunised, my son has had measles when very young (although much milder due to him being immunised) and my daughter has just recently had mumps while at Uni and I believe it could have become an epidemic had it not been Easter where a lot of students went home where it was contained (which was also milder due to immunisations but ****** painful and very uncomfortable).

In my opinion, there are more pros than cons in having the immunisations. I am not on social media and have no interest in it, it is a farcical existance and makes people unable to use/see common sense. If parents carry on refusing the MMR vaccination, it is only going to result in these diseases becoming epidemics and having tragic results. 

I think social media has indeed execerbated the decline in take-up. You see people sharing very dubious 'data' with accompanying comments warning people their children will be 'damaged' if they have vaccinations...personally I do think to remedy this currrent and dangerous state of affairs , people should be offered seperate shots instead of giving so many together or individual ones too close in time. I saw someone posting pics of 'her cousin' who after a polio shot, became ill and died.  So then they use this to terrify others and back up their claim that all vacs are poison.... these people are so irresponsible and clearfly fail to understand herd immunity and the need for very large numbers of people having vacs in order for it to work across society. 

As parents we have a choice of what is best for our child.

I think the government has a lot to do with this. Social media is used to get messages across. We need to do more research.

No i dont think so

Social media is to easily believed

It may be the significant rise in autistic children which has caused this or the reasons behind their misfortune has. I think if you're going to insist on vaccinating at least offer each vaccine separately so that out babies aren't overloaded with 7 or more lots of mini infections -isn't that what vaccines are? There would be less chance of things going wrong them wouldn't there

Measles is a dreadful disease. My poor daughter caught it at 1 year old, just before she was due to have the injection. Her eyesight has suffered ever since. But at least she survived!

More parents should be taking their children for the jab.  They should be made more aware of the advantages.

Same as TB, immigrants are bringing it back in and prob a slightly different strain.


The problem might be down to unfounded scaremongering about the MMR vaccine, but if the government is so worried about the reducing uptake of the MMR combined vaccine, there is a simple solution: let people have the 3 vaccines separately. Problem solved. It doesn't matter that there is no evidence that the combined vaccine causes Autism; the fact remains that people remember the original scare and remain unconvinced by the government's protestations ( let's face it; who in their right mind believes anything our governments say? ). Autism seems to be on the rise and the suspicion is always going to stick in people's minds, so just give in quietly and let them have the 3 vaccines separately.

My children had already had the MMR vaccinations when the 'research' by Andrew Wakefield was published. Having had all three diseases in childhood myself, without significant ongoing ill effects, I suspect I might have been put off agreeing to the MMR vaccinations had my children been younger. However I certainly would not have rejected other vaccinations, many of which I'd received personally in my youth.

Obviously the theories surrounding the link between MMR and autism have now been discounted but presumably the antivaxxers are still spreading fear despite this. Some organisations are now making admission to activities conditional on participants being up to date with vaccinations. I think this is the way forward, as parents who then choose not to vaccinate their children may then find their children excluded from such activities for the protection of others. You can't take unvaccinated animals to kennels and catteries so why should you be able to take unvaccinated children to playgroups, dance classes or sports clubs. Perhaps when children start to be turned away from fun activities (and maybe even state education) the parents will review their uneducated and dangerous attitudes to this important medical treatment.

Interestingly I believe my son is autistic, though mildly affected and undiagnosed, as, having done training related to autism through my work, I recognise many behavioural traits. His slight difficulties with socialising when younger have been overcome, and he is now  successful in his chosen career, happily married and socially successful too. Obviously autism affects individuals to very varying extents but spreading fear about the condition based on discounted research is extremely unhelpful and antivaxxers should be ashamed of themselves. The increases in diagnosis of the condition is surely a result of increased knowledge and understanding and nothing more sinister.

No social media got nothing to do with it


Yes, people would rather believe gossip fiction rather than fact. 

Why use a syergine as the advert please tell me that still is promoting something bad

Fear of the vacseen come on I don't want to be injected arnt we rich anoth for another way come on get real sorry Jill

Just goes to show how powerful social media is, people believe everything that they read.People should do their own research on recognised trusted sites.

Yes because there is a lot of people who make stuff up for fun and I am really not happy with it we should only no the truth

Part of the problem is that not enough information is provided to parents in which to make an informed decision.  For instance, parents often do not know what any given vaccine contains, a list of ingredients.  It is a fact that Autism has risen exponentially since vaccination programmes were implemented ....why shouldn’t concerned parents be asking about a possible correlation?  Would manufacturers be honest in their response if it affected their business?

A court in the USA agreed that no safety or quality controls had been carried out in the last 32 years of producing vaccines .... this should be of high concern.  Why, if vaccines were totally safe, have their been massive financial settlements paid to families whose children suffered life changing affects following routine vaccination?  

we cannot only rely on information that those with vested interests in vaccine production tell us.  Some previously healthy children have died after being vaccinated, it’s not scare mongering when it is fact and we ignore facts at our own children’s peril.


i had my children immunised around the time Dr. Wakefield was being labelled a fraud.   Other epidemiologists have also spoken out, specifically about the dangers of animal retrovirus’s that vaccines contain but their voices are suppressed too.  If we cannot hear all sides of the argument it leads to mistrust of the vaccine industry and rightly so.  Parents should be allowed to digest all the information in order to make an informed decision.

Sure. Many get misinformed through it.

No and yes it depends on people's views/knowledge which can influence other through the use of social media

It all depends on what people think and how to relax about it.

It's hard that people do sometimes listen to negative messages about things.Its all about looking at the bigger picture.