Celebrities should be used to persuade parents to give their children the MMR jab because they’re more convincing than scientists, public health expert says
- Britain could be heading for crisis in the battle against deadly diseases
- Professor John Ashton says doctors should be more active in talking about risks
- He encouraged stars such as footballers, singers and TV presenters to speak of the benefits of vaccination
Celebrities should be recruited to persuade parents to have their children vaccinated – because the public are more likely to be influenced by famous faces than scientific facts.
That’s the view of a leading public health expert, who says Britain could be heading for crisis in the battle against deadly diseases because of the scare stories spread by ‘anti-vaxxers’.
Professor John Ashton, former president of the Faculty of Public Health, also says doctors should be more active in talking about the risks of deadly diseases, given the alarming decline in child vaccinations across the UK.
He said government agencies rely too heavily on facts and figures that are no match for the emotive – if entirely untrue – claims of the conspiracy theorists.
As the public health chief for North West England in the 1980s and 1990s, Prof Ashton got the anti-smoking message across with the aid of Liverpool FC and goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar (pictured left with his wife Debbie)
Celebrities should be recruited to persuade parents to have their children vaccinated according to Professor John Ashton, former president of the Faculty of Public Health (file image)
Speaking to The Mail on Sunday, he said agencies such Public Health England were dominated by people ‘who expect that if you just tell people the scientific facts, they’ll just do what they are told – which is rubbish’.
Instead, they must appeal to both ‘head and heart’ to convince sceptical parents. That included getting stars such as footballers, singers and TV presenters to speak of the benefits of vaccination, he said.
As the public health chief for North West England in the 1980s and 1990s, Prof Ashton got the anti-smoking message across with the aid of Liverpool FC and goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar.
In 2005, Prof Ashton and his wife appeared on regional television to say they had given their toddler son the MMR jab.
Their public backing was in direct contrast to the stance taken by Tony and Cherie Blair, who refused to say if their son Leo had received it.
Prof Ashton’s comments come days after Health Secretary Matt Hancock, a father-of-three, warned there was a ‘very strong argument’ for making vaccinations for children compulsory before they start school.
Figures last month showed a fall in the uptake of all 13 routine childhood vaccinations, including measles, mumps and rubella, polio and diphtheria. Rates for MMR had dropped for the fifth year in a row, with 14 per cent of children not receiving the two necessary jabs.
The leading public health expert says Britain could be heading for crisis in the battle against deadly diseases because of the scare stories spread by ‘anti-vaxxers’ (file image)
Public Health England insist they and other Government agencies are taking action – including working with social media ‘influencers’, according to its head of immunisations, Mary Ramsay, .
She said: ‘Uptake of vaccines in this country also remains high. But we have seen a fall and we can’t be complacent.
‘That’s why we are putting a lot of energy into ensuring that we provide parents with all the information they need in an accessible way.
‘This includes working with influencers and social media platforms to share messages about the life-saving impact and value of vaccines.’
Last month the Prime Minister announced a fresh drive to increase childhood vaccination – including a clampdown on misinformation online – saying he was ‘determined to step up our efforts’ to tackle the spread of measles. There were 532 confirmed cases in England in the first half of 2019.
Meanwhile, a major new study has found that the BCG jab given to children to protect against tuberculosis could more than half the lifetime risk of developing lung cancer.
The vaccine appears to ‘prime’ the immune system against the disease, which claims more than 35,000 lives in Britain every year. But the American researchers who followed almost 3,000 people from the 1930s onwards admit they do not know exactly how this happens.
The rate of lung cancer in vaccinated patients over their lifetime was a startling 62 per cent lower than those who did not have the jab, they reported in the Journal Of The American Medical Association Open, even after adjusting for lifestyle effects such as smoking and alcohol intake.
They concluded: ‘This has potentially important health implications given the high mortality rate associated with lung cancer and the availability of the low-cost BCG vaccine.’