It pays to listen to the experts, especially when it comes to your family's health.

However, it seems a growing number of parents are covering their ears when it comes to vaccinating their children.

The internet and its plethora of interest-group forums have given rise to an era where unqualified lobbyists are often given precedence over the views of experts in the field.
Opinions based on theory and those based on evidence are accorded the same status - especially if those theories reinforce a person's already-established beliefs.

We've seen it with the subject of climate change, and we're seeing the same thing happening in the vaccination debate.


However, the tide seems to be turning.

Yesterday, Facebook announced its first policy to combat misinformation about vaccines, following in the footsteps of Pinterest and YouTube.

According to a report in the New York Times, the social network is adopting an approach similar to the one it uses to tackle fake news: The company will not remove incorrect content, but it will aim to reduce the reach of that content by making it harder to find.

The move comes as district health boards in New Zealand report that diseases almost eradicated in New Zealand are on the rise again.

Labour MP Louisa Wall earlier this week asked DHB members appearing before the health select committee at Parliament about an increase in the number of parents declining to have their children immunised.

"What are we going to do about these active anti-vaxxers who seem to be starting to appear in different communities?" Wall, who was chairing the committee, asked the leadership team of the Bay of Plenty District Health Board.

Chief executive Helen Mason responded that immunisation rates had deteriorated, underlying the point by adding "It really, really worries us".

Board chairwoman Sally Webb raised the issue of anti-vaxxers "as something we need to look at nationally, how we're going to combat the negative effects of that".


The combined percentage of opt-outs from the National Immunisation Register (NIR) and declines of one or more vaccinations at age 8 months increased every year from 3.9 per cent in December 2015 to 5.3 per cent for the year to December 2018.

Those figures certainly seem to suggest health authorities need to be more aggressive in getting their message to the public and counter pseudoscience and conspiracy theories surrounding immunisation with science and evidence. It's already happening in some countries.

Take for example a Danish study which tested a growing theory that MMR vaccinations were linked to autism. The study of more than half a million children found no link between the measles, mumps and rubella vaccination and autism.

Hard data such as this will play a vital role in countering misinformation and encouraging parents to get their children immunised.