So-called ‘anti-vaxxers’ are moving on from beliefs such as the (false) idea that vaccines cause autism and embracing weird new conspiracy theories.
Some now claim that polio doesn’t exist, and that the HPV virus can be cured by eating yoghurt, analysis of Facebook posts found.
The research, published in the journal Vaccine shows how the beliefs are evolving online.
The researchers looked at 197 profiles of people who had posted anti-vaccination comments on an informational video about HPV.
The researchers found that anti-vaxxers now include several distinct groups, including people peddling alternative cures (such as yoghurt for HPV), people worried about safety, and people peddling conspiracy theories.
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Peter Hotez, dean for the National School of Tropical Medicine Baylor College of Medicine told The Verge, ‘It began focusing on autism, but now it’s moving into other areas.
‘It tends to confirm the depth and breadth of how Facebook is promoting the anti-vaccine movement.’
Every year, 1.5 million children around the world die from diseases which can be prevented with vaccines – and so-called ‘anti-vaxxers’ contribute to this.
The main factor leading to the outbreaks are parents refusing to vaccinate children – leading to vaccination levels as low as 70% in some areas.
Measles claimed 72 lives across Europe last year as the number of cases reached the highest level for a decade, the World Health Organization said.