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Independents' Day

​Drop in coverage for all childhood vaccinations in the last year, official figures show

Rates of coverage for all 13 childhood vaccinations in England have fallen in the last year, according to new figures released by NHS Digital.

Coverage dropped for all routine vaccinations, including for the MMR vaccine, which fell for the fifth consecutive year.

The figures showed that 90.3% of eligible children had the first dose of the MMR vaccine by 24 months in 2018/19, down from 91.2% in the previous year.

The vaccination rate for both doses of MMR by the age of five was 86.4% in 2018/19, representing a decline of one percentage point from the previous year.

Only two local authorities, Cumbria and County Durham, achieved the WHO-recommended level of 95% coverage for the MMR vaccine in children aged five.

The figures also showed decreases in coverage of the 5-in-1 vaccine for the sixth year in a row, with coverage at 92.1% in children aged 12 months. This is the lowest rate since 2008/09.

The local authority with the worst coverage for the 5-in-1 vaccine was Hackney, with rates of just 73% for children aged 12 months.

BMA public health medicine committee chair, Dr Peter English, said: ‘Childhood immunisation remains the most effective way to prevent a range of life-threatening illnesses and it is therefore extremely concerning to see a decrease in vaccination uptake given this is largely avoidable.

‘There is a clear need to curb the damaging spread of false and misleading information on vaccinations by enforcing standards and placing legal obligations on social media corporations.

‘More importantly still, the Government must implement an effective vaccination strategy that addresses the wide-ranging factors behind this decline and deliver adequate resources to ensure targeted, comprehensive vaccination programmes that reaches those most in need.’

The news comes as figures released earlier this month by NHS Digital showed that hospital admissions for measles climbed by 66% in 2018/19 compared to the previous year.

Senior GPs wrote to health secretary Matt Hancock earlier this year recommending that children should not be allowed to start school if they had not had their MMR vaccines.  

Readers' comments (3)

  • Azeem Majeed

    It's very disappointing to see the recent decline in MMR vaccine coverage in children in England, which has fallen from a peak of 92.7% in 2013-14 to 90.3% in 2018-19. There is a lot of work to do to get coverage above the 95% WHO target.

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  • It seems greedy, having been quoted in the BMA press release, to have a second go via the comments, but I shan't let that hold me back…

    It is, of course, important to maintain confidence in vaccination; and there is great interest in "antivaxxers", "antivaccine sentiment", "vaccine hesitancy" and so on.

    BUT - I am not aware that, in the UK at least, there has been a significant change in antivaccine sentiment.

    What there HAS been, of course, is continuing cuts and disruption to primary care and public health services and (at least relative to need) funding. This makes it harder to provide vaccination in a way which makes it easy for all those eligible to take up the offer. In my opinion, the drop (which is very small) could be due to a number of factors, including:
    * less investment and or time for data collection and entry;
    * less time/personnel to chase up missed appointments
    * less time/personnel to ensure good systems for sending appointments;
    * less time etc to identify people who've missed appointments opportunistically;
    * etc.

    NB - this is emphatically NOT a criticism of NHS (or PHE) personnel, but an observation about the underinvestment in primary care and public health.

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  • Destroy the health visiting service has is consquences a little like cutting the police force an expecting no consequences.Tory austerity.

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