Ben HaywardApril 26th

Parents who refuse to vaccinate their children could risk having them turned away from school the Health Secretary has warned.

Matt Hancock says he is refusing to rule out the move after Unicef data showed that over 500,000 children in the UK have not had the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccination with cases of measles nearly quadrupling in England over the last twelve months.

Appearing on TalkRadio, Mr Hancock also hit out at fake stories and blamed social media for its role in the spread of the anti-vaccination movement.

He said: “I'm not relaxed about this at all. One of the things I am particularly worried about is the spread of anti-vaccination messages online. Vaccination is safe, it's very, very important for the public health - for everybody's health - and we're going to tackle it."

When asked if banning unvaccinated children from school was being considered Mr Hancock replied: “I wouldn't rule out anything but I don't think we're there yet.

"In America they tried to do this and the courts stopped them so it can be complicated, but really it's people's responsibility as a parent to do the right thing - the right thing for their own children as well as, of course, the right of the community that everybody lives in.”

Mr Hancock will meet with social media companies on Monday (April 29th) to demand tougher policing of anti-vaccination messages and ask that they do more to remove misinformation and lies about the impact of vaccination from their platforms.

He said: "I have called in the social media companies, like we had to with self-harming images a few months ago.”

Uptake of measles vaccinations has fallen in England for the fourth year running with nearly a thousand cases reported in 2018.

However, the overall risk of measles to the UK population does remain low, with The World Health Organisation saying the UK achieved measles elimination status as recently as 2017.

A spokesperson for Theresa May said: “Overall vaccine uptake is also very high, at over 90%, but we are continuously working to drive up immunisation rates.

"We are reviewing the slight decline in uptake as part of the long-term plan for the NHS to push coverage even higher and Public Health England are developing new campaigns about the benefits of immunisation."

The NHS says: "Measles is a highly infectious viral illness that can be very unpleasant and sometimes lead to serious complications.

It's highly infectious and can lead to serious health complications, including lung, eye and brain infections.”