News Brief

Study Links Rise of Populism with Anti-Vax Acceptance

If you are skeptical about vaccines than chances are you voted for a populist political movement.

That is the conclusion of a research report by by Jonathan Kennedy from Queen Mary University of London published on Monday. What links the two trends is a similar worldview — “A profound distrust of elites and experts,” according to the paper.

The report analyzed the previous European parliament elections and outbreaks of measles in individual European countries. The trend, the researcher says, is clear: measles incidents have spiked across the countries with populist governments.

One example in the report is Italy. Vaccinations decreased for measles in two years during which the populist Five Star Movement, or M5S, and other rightwing politicians became more vocal about anti-vaccination opinions in their political discourse. In addition to preaching against immunization, M5S proposed a law against mandatory vaccines. The bill was quickly shot down after a fast-spreading measles infection broke out in the country.

Vaccine skepticism is among the top 10 global health threats in 2019, according to the World Health Organization report.

Previous research conducted America has linked the growth of the anti-vaccination movement with Russian trolls.

A measles outbreak in the American state of Washington has raised questions about the growing anti-vaccination trend there. The state is now considering a law that would force children to participate in school vaccination programs except for limited medical reasons. The House of Representatives and Senate have scheduled hearings as well to discover the reasons of the outbreak.

Trump’s tweets in which he opines on the mistaken belief that vaccinations cause autism in kids hasn’t necessarily spur reluctance among parents, the report said. Underlying tendencies of mistrust in authority and institutions shared by populist political figures is ultimately what resonates with anti-vax believers. That disinformation is then rapidly spread spread through social media, amplifying the fringe opinion to the mainstream.

Social media platforms are finally taking measures to tackle the spreading anti-vax message.

Last week Youtube began removing ads from the anti-vaccine videos, cutting the revenue stream for the owners of such channels. Pinterest went as far as blocking search results related to information about vaccination altogether.