Much of the blame for the surge in anti-vax sentiments in recent years has been attributed to the work of discredited ex-physician Andrew Wakefield, who in the late 1990s wrongly claimed that the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine had the potential to cause autism in children.
Wakefield’s work “has caused multiple measles outbreaks in Western countries where the measles virus was previously considered eliminated”, according to the authors of a 2018 paper titled “The Anti-vaccination Movement: a Regression in Modern Medicine”.
The paper, published in the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, also points the finger at “social media” and even TV talk show hosts for playing a “big role in miseducation” by giving a platform to anti-vax theories.
And with many people using social media sources to stay updated about the coronavirus pandemic, the “stakes are now higher than ever”, Politico says. A Cabinet Office official told the site that Downing Street is currently “monitoring false claims” about Covid vaccinations online.
These claims include baseless suggestions that children will be vaccinated without parental consent; that the Army will coerce people to receive the vaccine; and that people have died as a result of taking part in a vaccine trial. Russian propagandists have also spread reports that the Oxford University-developed vaccine could turn people into chimpanzees.