He added: “I’m a great believer in herd immunity. If you don’t want your child to be vaccinated shouldn’t you at least have to notify every other parent that your child comes into contact with? With some kids vaccination doesn’t take – in around six to seven per cent of cases the vaccine doesn’t always work first time and that’s why we give a booster.
“If you’re one of those children you’re at risk. You could kill a child if you don’t vaccinate your own,” he said.
Earlier this year, the World Health Organization identified vaccine hesitancy as one of 10 major threats to global health, alongside “high-threat” pathogens such as Ebola, air pollution and obesity.
WHO said the reasons why people choose not to vaccinate are complex with complacency, inconvenience and a lack of confidence all behind decisions.
Dr Berkley welcomed WHO’s decision to highlight the problem but he added: “Countries have their own laws. WHO can make recommendations but they cannot physically do anything to stop these problems.”
Dr Kathy Neuzil, from University of Maryland School of Medicine, agreed that vaccine hesitancy was a growing phenomenon in lower income countries.
“There have been pockets of vaccine hesitancy and the origins of those fears vary, but not at the stage as in the US or Europe. It is a privilege to say there’s no measles in the US so I’m not going to vaccinate my child.
“When people perceive a risk of disease, such as with Ebola, there is high demand for vaccines. Overall, there is undisputed evidence of vaccine efficacy, but acceptance of certain vaccines varies,” she said.