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expert reaction to NHS Digital Childhood Vaccination Coverage Statistics for 2016-17

NHS Digital has published their 2016-17 childhood vaccination coverage statistics.


Prof. Helen Bedford, Professor of Child Public Health, Institute of Child Health, UCL, said:

“In UK we are fortunate to have a highly successful childhood immunisation programme offering vaccines to protect children against fourteen potentially serious infections before the age of five years.  The overwhelming majority of parents vaccinate their children and have confidence in the vaccine programme.  However, the latest vaccine uptake figures for England show something of a mixed picture.  While for the first time, 95% of five year olds have had one dose of MMR by the age of five years, with 7 out of 9 regions exceeding this figure, there is still room for improvement notably in London and the South East.  At two years of age 95% of children in England have had three doses of the primary vaccines.  For the best protection of children and the community, uptakes of MMR and the primary vaccines need to be higher at younger ages.  This not only provides protection to individual children as early as possible but also means the diseases stop circulating, giving protection to those who cannot be immunised such as very young babies.  While it’s not conclusive that fewer parents are actually immunising their children – these figures could represent issues over accurate collection of immunisation figures – they do provide an impetus to continue working to improve and maintain high vaccine levels to protect our children.  It is also important to remind parents that children can catch up on vaccines they may have missed out on when younger.”


Prof. Geoffrey Smith, Wellcome Trust Principal Research Fellow and Head, Department of Pathology, University of Cambridge, said:

“The news that the update of MMR vaccine in 5-yr old children in UK has reached the WHO objective of 95% for the first time is most welcome.  However, this provides no cause for complacency and the news that the update of the MMR vaccine in our 2 year-olds has fallen for the third year in a row is most unwelcome news.  We are still not vaccinating enough of our children.  Measles, mumps and rubella could be eradicated if we would use the MMR vaccine fully.”


Prof. Peter Openshaw, President of the British Society for Immunology, said:

“Vaccines are amongst the simplest and most cost effective public health measures that we have and they continue to save countless lives.

“Today’s publication of annual vaccination statistics for England paints a complex picture.  Although there seems to be little significant change from last year, overall vaccination rates are still below the World Health Organization’s recommended level of 95% coverage, with small decreases on some vaccine types.  Of particular concern is coverage of the MMR vaccine that prevents measles, mumps and rubella, overall uptake of which has decreased for the fourth year in a row.  England’s coverage currently stands at 92% of children receiving the first MMR vaccine by their second birthday, with 88% receiving the second vaccine by their fifth birthday.  This is substantially lower than the WHO recommended levels of 95% coverage at these time points.

“The UK is a world leader in vaccine research and we need to ensure that this excellence is reflected in the provision of vaccines to our children to prevent disease.  This not only protects the children themselves, but also people in our communities who are vulnerable because of health problems (for example, those with compromised immune systems, elderly people and cancer patients).

“The statistics indicate there is also significant regional variation in coverage levels, which has a substantial impact on our ability to stop the spread of these diseases within individual communities.  It is crucial that the Government, NHS and local authorities work together to learn lessons from those areas that are performing well to ensure that vaccination rates increase and prevent the spread these harmful but preventable diseases.”




Declared interests

Prof. Helen Bedford: “No conflicts.”

Prof. Geoffrey Smith: “I have no conflict of interests to declare.”

Prof. Peter Openshaw: “Prof Peter Openshaw’s research is funded by the Wellcome Trust, the MRC, BBSRC and the European Union. He has received honoraria or consultancy fees from GSK, Janssen, and Mucosis BV.”

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