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Mind the Gap – Challenging Immunisation Apathy and Misinformation

world, the biggest challenges remain apathy and misinformation. Since a measles vaccine was introduced in the UK in 1968, Public Health England estimates that 20 million measles cases and 4,500 deaths have been averted.3 But who knows and who cares? There were 1,145 deaths due to measles in England and Wales in 1941. Between 2000 and 2017 there were 14.

Mind the Gap – Challenging Immunisation Apathy and Misinformation

Out of sight, out of mind

The root case of the ‘immunisation gap’ differs greatly around the world, but I would argue that, in the developed world, the biggest challenges remain apathy and misinformation. Since a measles vaccine was introduced in the UK in 1968, Public Health England estimates that 20 million measles cases and 4,500 deaths have been averted.3 But who knows and who cares? There were 1,145 deaths due to measles in England and Wales in 1941. Between 2000 and 2017 there were 14.4

It is, of course, a very small number; but it is 14 deaths that need never have happened, 14 families who lost a child they need not have lost, 14 personal tragedies. One of the challenges to overcome is the hard fact that virtually nobody in the UK now knows someone who has died of measles. Even fewer have any idea what measles is and how dangerous it can be. No experienced empathy and no understanding perhaps inevitably lead to no perceived risk. People don’t fully appreciate that deciding not to vaccinate their child doesn’t just affect them.

Age-old problem

Apathy surrounding vaccination does not just relate to measles vaccination. Influenza vaccination suffers from the same challenges. Although the UK has one of the highest vaccination rates of the OECD countries, in 2017 only 72.6% of registered patients aged 65 and over were immunised.5

So, why do nearly 30% of individuals at risk from influenza choose not to be vaccinated? Is it because people perceive flu to be an unpleasant, but not serious, illness? Is it because they don’t know that, although this is true for many people, certain people are more likely to develop serious complications of flu, such as bronchitis and pneumonia? Is it because they neither know, nor accept, that people can and do die as a result of flu?

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22nd October 2021

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