World Health Organisation highlights anti-vax group on Facebook by mistake

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has mistakenly pledged its support for an anti-vaccination group on its Facebook page.

The error was spotted by social media users who wrote comments underneath the post, with one saying: “Check your support, they are anti-vax”.

The post, which was made on the Facebook page yesterday and later amended, said WHO was “supporting the Vaccine Information Network (Vine)” an anti-vaccination group.

WHO had highlighted the group, adding: “We can stop measles. Measles is preventable through two doses of a safe and effective vaccine.”

Vine hosts adverts from groups, including some saying the “modern medical system is essentially mafia-controlled” and accuses officials of “scientific fraud”.

Anti-vaccination groups have been blamed for some parents in the UK not allowing their children to have the combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR).

Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, has said “vaccine rejection is a serious and growing public health timebomb”, adding that he felt social media firms should have a zero-tolerance approach towards “dangerous and inaccurate scare stories”.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has also said he “wouldn’t rule out anything” when asked whether unvaccinated children should be banned from schools.

Children not given first measles vaccine 2010-17
Children not given first measles vaccine 2010-17

Figures out last month from Unicef showed that over half a million children in the UK were not vaccinated against measles between 2010 and 2017.

Children need two doses of the vaccine for protection, with WHO recommending 95% coverage to achieve herd immunity, which offers protection against the disease spreading in the community.

In the UK in 2017, there were 259 measles cases in England, rising to 966 in 2018.

In 2016 and 2017, uptake of the first dose of the MMR vaccine in five-year-olds in the UK exceeded 95% for the first time.

But uptake of the second dose of MMR in five-year-old children is 88% – well below the 95% WHO target.