If you're an anti-vaxxer, you have 'blood on your hands,' according to the UK's healthcare secretary

(Sean Gallup/Getty Images))Children are especially at risk for measles, a highly infectious disease that can be deadly if left untreated.

For UK health secretary Matt Hancock, anti-vaxxers are no laughing matter.

In a recent interview with The Times, Hancock said “Those who have promoted the anti-vaccination myth are morally reprehensible, deeply irresponsible, and have blood on their hands.”

The health secretary’s vehement statement comes on the heels of a new UNICEF study that showed more than 500,000 children in the UK (and 2.5 million children in the US) went unvaccinated against measles between 2010 and 2017.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), measles cases rose by 300% in the first three months of 2019 compared to the same time period last year.

Matt HancockBusiness Insider/Sam SheadThe 40-year-old UK health secretary said anti-vaxxers are ‘morally reprehensible and deeply irresponsible.’

On the same day as his interview with The Times, Hancock also appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Today program, echoing his stance against anti-vaxxers.

He told the BBC, “I don’t want to have to reach the point of compulsory vaccination, but I will rule nothing out.”

Hancock asserted that vaccinations are “good for you, good for your child, good for your neighbour and your community.”

“If you don’t vaccinate your children it is not only your child that is at risk, it is also other children, including children who for medical reasons can’t be vaccinated,” he added.

Anti-vaxxers are a ‘public health threat’ according to the World Health Organisation

The UK health secretary called out anti-vaxxers – parents who refuse to vaccinate their children because of concerns over the vaccines’ safety or potential links to autism – during his BBC radio interview: “Those people who campaign against vaccination are campaigning against science,” Hancock said. “The science is settled.”

According to the WHO, “vaccine hesitancy” is one of the top 10 threats to global health this year.

Read More:
An unvaccinated 6-year-old boy spent 57 days in the hospital recovering from tetanus, and his parents still refuse follow-up shots

The anti-vaxx movement gained momentum in 1998 when the now-disgraced doctor Andrew Wakefield falsely claimed in a discredited research paper that there was a link between the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism.

Recently, anti-vaxxers have taken to social media platforms to spread their messaging that vaccines are harmful for children.

A report from the UK’s Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) showed 50% of UK parents with children under the age of 5 had seen had seen “negative messages” about vaccinations on social media. More than 25% of the 2,000 surveyed parents believe, wrongly, that a person can have “too many” vaccines.

In March, the American Medical Association (the largest professional group of doctors in the US), appealed to the CEOs of Amazon, Facebook, Google, Pinterest, Twitter and YouTube in a letter voicing concern that users on their platforms were spreading fake information about childhood vaccines utilising inaccurate videos, posts, and links targeted at parents with children.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.