Thousands of children could be banned from school if they do not get vaccinated under a major shake-up being considered by the Tory Health Secretary.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock today declared there is a “very strong argument” for making vaccinations compulsory to stop a “worrying” rise in measles cases.
He revealed he has commissioned advice from officials inside the government which reported back in the last few days.
Mr Hancock did not confirm any firm plans, timescale or whether he has spoken to Prime Minister Boris Johnson about the idea.
But his statement is a major shift from May, when he said he would not “rule out” compulsory vaccinations.
It comes after figures last week showed MMR vaccine rates have fallen in England for the fifth year in a row from 91.2% of children to 90.3%.
Meanwhile measles cases rose 300% globally in the first three months of 2019 compared to the same period in 2018.
The government has been considering a crackdown on social media giants to stop the spread of anti-vaccine conspiracy theories.
But today, the Heath Secretary told a Tory conference fringe event he is also seriously considering a compulsory vaccine programme.
Asked if he had received legal advice he said: “I have actually I have received advice inside government this week on how we might go about it and I’m looking very seriously.”
He said: “I’ve said before that we should be open minded.
“And frankly what I’d say is that when we, the state, provide services to people then it’s a two-way street – you’ve got to take your responsibilities too.
“So I think there’s a very strong argument for having compulsory vaccinations for children for when they go to school.
“Because otherwise they’re putting other children at risk.
“Now you’ve got to make sure the system would work, because some children can’t be vaccinated and some may hold very strong religious convictions that you want to take into account.
“But frankly, the proportion of people in either of those two categories is tiny compared to the 7 or 8% now who don’t get vaccinated.
“And then I’d want to make it very easy if the children do arrive at school not vaccinated, simply to get vaccinated, and make it the norm.
“I think there’s a very strong argument for moving to compulsory vaccination and I think the public would back us.”
Mr Hancock added: “For measles, the falling vaccination rates are a serious problem
“And It’s unbelievable I think that Britain has lost its measles-free status and it should be a real wake-up call.
“I think the social media companies have got a lot to answer for. They allow the spread of anti-vaccine messages.
“And I will do whatever I can.
“The science is absolutely clear and settled on the importance of vaccination.
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“And the worst thing is that if you don’t vaccinate your child and you can, then the person you’re putting at risk is not only your own child.
“It’s also the child who can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons. Maybe they’ve got cancer, so their immune system is too weak.
“And they are using what’s called the herd immunity that you get when over 95% of people are vaccinated.”