UPTAKE of vaccines offered to 13 and 14 year olds fell during the 2021 to 2022 academic year, leaving many young people unprotected from life-threatening diseases, according data published by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).
Health officials are particularly concerned over uptake of the teenage (Td/IPV) booster, which is the last routine dose for tetanus, diphtheria and polio, and provides young people with long-lasting protection into adulthood.
There is also concern over the MenACWY vaccine, which helps protect young people against four types of meningococcal disease.
Uptake of the Td/IPV and MenACWY vaccines for children in school year 9 was 69 per cent, around 7 per cent lower than the previous year and well below pre-pandemic levels (87.6 per cent for Td/IPV and 88 per cent for MenACWY in the 2018 to 2019 academic year).
The data does suggest that the NHS has already caught up with many children who missed out on their vaccines, with uptake improving to around 80 per cent for children in year 10. UKHSA is urging parents and guardians to ensure eligible young people are up to date with their adolescent vaccines before they leave school.
Dr Vanessa Saliba, Consultant Epidemiologist at UKHSA, said: "Vaccines protecting against tetanus, diphtheria, polio and meningococcal disease are offered to young people in school year 9 and are being delivered in schools right now. In recent years we have seen vaccine uptake fall due to the challenges posed by the pandemic. Many young people who missed out on their vaccinations have already been caught up, but more needs to be done to ensure all those eligible are vaccinated.
"Children and young people who have missed out on their teenage vaccines should contact their school nurse, school immunisation team or GP surgery to arrange a catch-up.
"These vaccines offer the best protection as young people start their journey into adulthood and mixing more widely – whether going to college, starting work, travelling or going to summer festivals."
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