Action urged to improve vaccination uptake

ONE in seven five year olds in England may not be fully up-to-date with routine immunisations, according to Public Health England (PHE).

And that figure could be as high as one in four children in London.

These estimates were released as part of the PHE campaign – Value of Vaccines – to highlight that many children are starting school at unnecessary risk of serious diseases and prompting a call for parents to check their child's Red Book to ensure their children are up-to-date with scheduled immunisations.

PHE estimates that over 30,000 (around one in 19) five year olds in England may still need to receive their first dose of MMR and around 90,000 (or one in seven) may still need to receive their second dose of MMR vaccine. Around 100,000 (or one in eight) five year olds in England may also still need their 4-in-1 pre-school booster that protects against diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus and polio.

There has been a small but steady decline in vaccination coverage in recent years, which means that the UK has now lost its ‘measles-free’ status with the World Health Organisation (WHO) three years after the virus was eliminated in the country.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is calling for health leaders to renew efforts to meet 95 per cent for both doses of MMR. Action to achieve this includes NHS England writing to GPs urging them to promote ‘catch up’ vaccination programmes for MMR for 10-11 year olds, as well as all those 5-25 year olds who have not had two doses of the jab.

Health organisations are also being urged to update advice on NHS.uk tackling parents’ concerns – specifically to address misleading information about the dangers of vaccines.

Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation at PHE, said: "We're particularly concerned about children being at greater risk of measles. We're continuing to see outbreaks of the disease occurring in communities across the country, many linked to visiting European countries over the summer holidays.

"The vast majority of those affected are not fully immunised and vaccine preventable diseases spread more easily in schools. It's crucial that children have maximum protection as they begin to mix with other children at the start of their school journey."