Facebook putting childrens lives at risk by reviving spurious MMR claims say

Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. Royal College of GPs of their chairwoman Helen Stokes-LampardCredit:Grainge Photography/Royal College of GPs The report also claims, wrongly, that the MMR vaccine is responsible for massive global adverse reactions and has a poor safety record, an assertion contradicted by WHO research.Truth About Vaccines links Gardasil, a vaccine for HPV, to paralysis, deaths and adverse events. It is contradicted by official peer-reviewed studies showing no deaths have been linked to the vaccine. A study of 190,000 girls found rates of auto-immune responses were the same in the vaccinated as unvaccinated.Dr David Grimes, a Oxford University health specialist, said Facebook should establish a team of medical experts to review the sites.“If something is so obviously fake and people are undermining and causing damage to public health, they should not be allowed to do that,” he said. Truth About vaccines carries an alarmist report about a mother whose baby was injected with the MMR vaccine and died a minute later. There is no evidence the vaccine was to blame, but instead poor handling and refrigeration of it by medical staff is suspected and is under police investigation. It meant a “sizeable cohort of twenty-somethings” were unprotected from potentially life-threatening diseases with a surge of more 600 measles cases in England this year alone, a disease “we were on the brink of eradicating and which can have life-changing consequences,” she added.Measles cases in England are set to quadruple this year, fuelled by an anti-vaccine movement that, researchers say, has gained momentum through social media platforms such as Facebook.Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health, demanded urgent action by Facebook, saying its own research, due later this year, showed parents were more likely to see negative and often-inaccurate messages about vaccinations on social media than positive ones. “The consequences of publishing misleading information is a genuine risk to the public’s health – you only have to look at the widespread panic and confusion that was caused by unfounded claims [by Dr Wakefield] linking the MMR vaccine to autism in the 1990s,” she said. Searches for “vaccinations”, “vaccination information” or “vaccines” or “MMR vaccine” on Facebook placed sites entitled Truth about Vaccines, National Vaccine Information Centre, Vaccine Information Network (VINE) and Vaccine Information Portal in the top five searches. All are anti-vaccination.On VINE, Robert F Kennedy, an anti-vaccination lawyer who has met and lobbied Donald Trump to set up an inquiry into vaccine safety, claims in a video that the “explosion” in child epidemics of autism, ADD, ADHD, arthritis, diabetes and auto-immune diseases is directly linked to vaccines.The site also makes the unfounded claim that the HPV vaccine is “destroying” the lives of little girls “and now boys” after the government’s recent announcement that the vaccine will be given to boys. Royal College of GPs of their chairwoman Helen Stokes-Lampard Searches for “vaccinations”, “vaccination information” or “vaccines” or “MMR vaccine” on Facebook placed sites that are anti-vaccination Searches for “vaccinations”, “vaccination information” or “vaccines” or “MMR vaccine” on Facebook placed sites that are anti-vaccinationCredit:AFP Facebook is putting children’s lives at risk by reviving spurious MMR claims, the UK’s top health chiefs have said.The anti-vaccination sites which promote the fake science that caused a surge in measles cases as well as conspiracy theories about other vaccines appear at the top of searches when parents use Facebook to find information about the MMR vaccine or other vaccinations.Andrew Wakefield, the discredited doctor behind the fraudulent research linking the MMR vaccine to autism, features prominently on the sites with his film Vaxxed in which he accuses the US government’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention of a cover-up over the risks.Unlike Google, which filters out anti-vaccination sites to promote guidance from the NHS, government or World Health Organisation, Facebook’s searches appear to be based solely on their most popular and active sites irrespective of whether they are peddling false information. The biggest anti-vaccination sites have more than 100,000 followers.Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said it was “deeply concerning” that Facebook was carrying posts that spread “false and frankly dangerous ideas” about not just MMR but other vaccination programmes.