As reported by the BBC, Matt Hancock told an event at the Tory conference he had taken legal advice this week on how to go about making vaccinations for schoolchildren compulsory
The health secretary has said he is “looking very seriously” at making vaccinations compulsory for all children going to school in England.
Unvaccinated children were “putting other children at risk”, he said.
The uptake of the MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) vaccine in particular has been declining in many countries.
Speaking at the conference, Hancock said: “I’m very worried about falling rates of vaccinations – especially measles.
“For measles, the falling vaccination rates are a serious problem and it is unbelievable that Britain has lost its measles-free status.”
He added: “The worst thing is if you don’t vaccinate your child and you can, then the person you are putting at risk is not only just your own child, but it’s also the child that cant be vaccinated for medical reasons.
“Maybe they have cancer and their immune system is too weak.
“I don’t want the debate to put people off because there is absolute clarity on what the science says and what the right thing is to do.”
The health secretary has said before he was willing to look at “all options” to boost England’s vaccination levels, including compulsory immunisation – and while he did not want to “reach the point” of imposing jabs, he would “rule nothing out”.Hancock appeared to firm up his stance at the conference in Manchester on Sunday.
“When the state provide service to people then it’s a two-way street,” he said. “You have to take your responsibilities too.
“I have received advice from inside government this week on how we would go about it and I am looking into it very seriously.”
Measles is highly infectious and can cause serious health complications, including damaging the lungs and brain.
There were more than 82,500 cases in Europe in 2018 – the highest number in a decade and three times the total reported in 2017.
In England, the proportion of children receiving both doses of the MMR jab by their fifth birthday has fallen over the last four years to 87.2%.
This is below the 95% said to provide “herd immunity”, the level considered by experts to protect a population from a disease.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of NAHT, commented: “The important thing in this case is that we should follow the science and take the lead from medical professionals. The science clearly shows that immunisation is vital to prevent infection, however immunisation rates have fallen.
“Before this issue becomes yet another one laid at school’s front door to solve, NAHT would like to see more done to inform families about the need for children to be vaccinated. If this campaign was successful, it would be unnecessary for schools to police the system, which is surely better for everyone.”