Widespread misinformation about vaccination programmes poses a ‘huge danger' to Irish people, the president of the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) has warned.
Dr Padraig McGarry said he is ‘deeply concerned' about the rise of the anti-vaccination movement and what this means for Ireland.
"Our vaccination programmes keep children and adults alike safe from serious infectious diseases and it's terrible to see how misinformation being spread online and offline can convince people not to vaccinate their children," he insisted.
Dr McGarry made his comments after a UN report revealed that the number of measles cases in Ireland jumped from 25 in 2017 to 86 last year - a more than 200% increase. So far this year, there have already been 48 cases of the disease.
"We have seen a significant rise in populism across the Western world in recent years, from which Ireland is not immune. With that populism has come a blind faith in ludicrous theories that do nothing but cause harm to people.
"The rejection and devaluing of evidence-based medical knowledge will make more people sick and endanger lives, and it is up to all of us to fight this misinformation at every turn," Dr McGarry warned.
He pointed out that social media has had a major role to play in the rise in anti-vaccination theories.
"Social media's dark side is real and it is important that these lies are challenged swiftly and effectively to protect people around the country. It is obvious that in light of this trend, we can no longer take the gains of medicine and science for granted," Dr MacGarry noted.
He reiterated that vaccines are ‘safe and effective' and urged all parents to protect their children by getting them vaccinated.
The MMR vaccine protects against measles, mumps and rubella. It is offered to children as part of their routine immunisation schedule at the age of 12 months and four to five years. For more information, click here.
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