The Internet Age has enabled almost anyone to publish their views to a worldwide audience, creating an information revolution as profound as the invention of the printing press. The problem is that much of what is said is utter nonsense.
Anyone glancing through social media and sites like YouTube can quickly find themselves drawn into an increasingly bizarre world by computer algorithms that lack human judgement. And it is obvious this is having worrying real-world effects, from the popularity of the pro-Trump QAnon conspiracy theory in the US to the unexpected return of ‘flat-earthers’, despite the overwhelming evidence that the Earth is, roughly, spherical, and other equally unscientific views.
Alarmingly large numbers of people, particularly in America, are all-too-easily taken in and then cling to the oddest of beliefs with a faith that borders on the religious. And Scotland cannot be complacent, as demonstrations against the Covid vaccine during the height of the pandemic, even if relatively small, showed.
However, the new statistics from Public Health Scotland found that 95.9 per cent of children had been given the first dose of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine by the age of five, with similar rates for other serious diseases, such as diphtheria, tetanus and polio.
The vast majority of parents are showing basic common sense in accepting decades, and in some cases centuries, of well-established science and, as a direct result, the lives of children are being saved. They should be an example to everyone. Vaccination against flu may have once been regarded as an optional extra, but the current pressure on the NHS means that getting immunised against this year’s strain is vitally important to reduce its spread and the number of severe cases.
There is a risk in being overly cynical. But, amid a deluge of information from a vast array of sources, we need to have an effective filter and be alive to the possibility we are being misled. Vaccination is a medical miracle that we must never discard on the advice of deluded, if well-meaning, fools and outright charlatans.