The NHS have released the latest annual childhood vaccination coverage statistics for England covering 2019-2020.
Prof Helen Bedford, Professor of Children’s Health, UCL, said:
“Latest figures on uptake of childhood vaccine are very encouraging. After several years of small declines in uptake, the direction is now up for most vaccines. Vaccination is the most effective way to protect our children against serious infectious diseases and these uptake figures show that UK parents consider vaccination to be the normal thing to do. There is still room to improve rates further, and this winter it will be particularly important to ensure children are protected. Preventing unnecessary illness through routine vaccination will help reduce the increased pressure on health services which will result from COVID-19. Children with chronic health conditions are particularly at risk of being very ill of they are not vaccinated and anyone from the age of 6 months with a health condition would be strongly advised to have flu vaccine.”
Dr Doug Brown, Chief Executive of the British Society for Immunology, said:
“Today’s publication of the annual childhood vaccination statistics for England shows a welcome small increase in uptake for most routine vaccinations but once again, none of them have reached the necessary uptake level of 95% at the correct timepoint.
“Vaccination is one of the safest and most effective methods we have to save lives and stop the spread of infectious diseases. The slight rise in uptake of routine childhood vaccinations in England is a step in the right direction but we must still take urgent action to overcome the ongoing trend of missing the 95% target set out by the World Health Organization. Low levels of vaccination coverage matter as it means diseases such as measles have the potential to spread within our communities, infecting unvaccinated people, including vulnerable individuals unable to have vaccinations such as young babies or people with cancer.
“There are many positive actions we can take to increase vaccine uptake including strengthening the role of local immunisation co-ordinators, ensuring services are accessible and widening outreach into communities. This should come together with increased engagement with parents to answer their questions and provide evidence-based information on vaccines. However, for these initiatives to be successful, we must ensure our immunisation services are properly funded.
“There are three areas that now require urgent action from the Government. Firstly, they must avoid further delay and publish their Vaccine Strategy on the steps they plan to take to increase childhood vaccine uptake as a matter of priority. Secondly, they must provide more information on plans for how oversight of the national immunisation programme will be fulfilled by the new National Institute for Health Protection. Lastly, these statistics do not cover the majority of the lockdown period and therefore, an important area of focus must be setting out dedicated plans for catch up vaccination services for any children who missed out due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The UK is a world leader in vaccine research and the British Society for Immunology is committed to supporting our outstanding healthcare professional workforce to ensure that they are equipped to protect our children from these preventable diseases.”
Prof Helen Bedford: “No conflicts.”
Dr Doug Brown: “trustee of the Association of Medical Research Charities.”