Health

Small victories in the battle to counter bogus vaccine claims

Small victories in the battle to counter bogus vaccine claims

Last month, I received a nervous email from a highly educated friend: should she allow her daughter to receive the HPV vaccine at school to protect against cervical cancer? “You heard anything nasty about this one?”

Her anxiety is part of an endless cycle of angst over childhood immunisation. This week, Italy’s government voted through legislation overturning a 2017 law mandating childhood vaccines. It was part of broader populist attack on previous governments.

“I don’t think there is any other country where vaccines have become such a frontline battle in politics,” says Paolo Bonanni, a health professor at the University of Florence who has mobilised scientists against the growing “anti-vax” movement and related media bias.

The problem is not limited to Italy. More and more people are objecting to jabs, according to The Vaccine Confidence Project, based at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Anti-vax arguments can be very seductive. Where science evolves through evidence-based debate, opponents sow doubt with slogans and cherry-picked facts.