Anti-vaccine movement: More and more people ask 'Are vaccines safe? What side effects?'

Anti-vaccine research has risen by up to 400 percent around the world, online search trends show. More people around the globe question now whether vaccinations are safe and whether vaccinations are linked to autism than they did 12 months ago. The dire revelation follows a study into online search data, compiled by analysts at the US-based company SEMrush. The study’s results shared exclusively with Express.co.uk, show interest in the safety of vaccinations is not contained to one nation or group of internet users.

Olga Andrienko, head of global marketing at SEMrush, said: “Though online search trend analysis, we are able to view the specific terms people are searching for in relation to the anti-vaccination movement, as well as noting the difference in volumes.

“It is, therefore, possible to view what aspects of the movement people are hesitant or curious about, which have prompted them to turn to the internet for answers.

“The clear increase in global searches for ‘anti-vaccine’ demonstrates that interest in the anti-vaccination movement has spread terms from January 2018 to February 2019.”

The news comes and localised outbreaks of measles in the US and part of Europe are on the rise.

SEMrush’s analysts investigated the online search trends for a total of 117 countries, including the UK, United States, Germany, Poland and Norway.

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Anti-vaccine movement: Are vaccines safe?

Anti-vaccine movement: More people globally are questioning the safety of vaccines (Image: GETTY)

Since February last year, there has been a 400 percent increase in the number of people looking up online the term “anti-vaccine”.

There has also been a 175 percent increase in the number of searches for “do vaccines cause autism”.

A common thread throughout the anti-vaxxer moment, is the idea vaccinations are linked to the developmental disorder.

There are, however, no scientific indicators to suggest this is the case and the NHS here in the UK and the World Health Organisation (WHO) both warn against these claims.

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The WHO listed this year anti-vaccine sentiments, or vaccine hesitancy as it called it, as one of the most pressing health threats facing the globe.

The group said: “Vaccination is one of the most cost-effective ways of avoiding disease – it currently prevents two to three million deaths a year, and a further 1.5 million could be avoided if global coverage of vaccinations improved.

“Measles, for example, has seen a 30 percent increase in cases globally.

“The reasons for this rise are complex, and not all of these cases are due to vaccine hesitancy.

“However, some countries that were close to eliminating the disease have seen a resurgence.”

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Anti-vaccine movement: Actor Jim Carrey campaigned for "greener" and safer vaccines (Image: GETTY)

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Anti-vaccine movement: Jim Carrey claimed vaccines hold harmful substances (Image: TWITTER)

SEMrush also noted rising concern in the side effects of vaccinations and whether vaccines are safe to take.

The search trends for those questions rose in 12 months by 83 percent and 23 percent respectively.

Here are the full results of the study:

1. ”Anti-vaccine” searches rose by 400 percent

2. “Do vaccines cause autism” searches rose by 175 percent

3. “Vaccines cause side effects” searches rose by 83 percent

4. “Vaccines and autism” searches rose by 50 percent

5. “Are vaccines safe” searches rose by 23 percent

The underlying cause of the growing interest in vaccinations is a complex and unclear issue.

Public figures such as the comedic actor Jim Carrey have rallied behind calls to make vaccines “greener” to reduce their supposed danger.

Interest in the anti-vaccination movement has spread

Olga Andrienko, SEMrush

In 2015, the actor accused the state of California of “poisoning children with mercury and aluminium in mandatory vaccines” and even took part in a march through Washington DC.

Vaccine hesitancy in many cases can be traced to a widely discredited 1998 paper on the topic published by Dr Andrew Wakefield and colleagues in The Lancet.

The research paper claimed a link between vaccinations and the development of autism but has since been debunked by health experts and even accused of fraud.

A 2011 paper penned by Dr T.S Sathyanarayana Rao and published in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry, states: “Scientists and organisations across the world spent a great deal of time and money refuting the results of a minor paper in the Lancet and exposing the scientific fraud that formed the basis of the paper.

Anti-vaccine movement: Are vaccines safe?

Anti-vaccine movement: The WHO warned against growing vaccine hesitancy (Image: GETTY)

Anti-vaccine movement: Are vaccines safe?

Anti-vaccine movement: A debunked 1998 study claimed a linked between autism and vaccines (Image: GETTY)

“Appallingly, parents across the world did not vaccinate their children out of fear of the risk of autism, thereby exposing their children to the risks of disease and the well-documented complications related thereto.

“Measles outbreaks in the UK in 2008 and 2009, as well as pockets of measles in the USA and Canada, were attributed to the non-vaccination of children.

“The Wakefield fraud is likely to go down as one of the most serious frauds in medical history.

“Scientists who publish their research have an ethical responsibility to ensure the highest standards of research design, data collection, data analysis, data reporting, and interpretation of findings; there can be no compromises because any error, any deceit, can result in harm to patients as well harm to the cause of science, as the Wakefield saga so aptly reveals.”

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