There has been a decline in the number of children receiving jabs for diseases other than Covid in the UK, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has said.
The drop is due to ‘vaccination fatigue’ after the Covid vaccination programme as well as increased pressure in primary care as more people return to see GPs and hospitals.
The number of teenagers in England getting vaccinated fell by 20% after the first lockdown last year for some cancers and diseases such as meningitis, septicaemia, tetanus, diphtheria and polio.
The figures were revealed in the minutes of the JCVI’s latest meeting, held on 22 June 2021.
There was a smaller but still notable fall in the number of children receiving their first MMR jab to protect against measles, mumps and rubella.
The committee said the decline in MMR uptake could lead to ‘a big build-up of susceptibles in the longer term’ if it continues. For under-fives and under three-year-olds, they said a potential ‘formalised catch up for MMR via primary care services using call and recall’ was ‘under discussion’.
RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall said the figures are ‘extremely concerning’, and urged parents of all eligible children ‘not to delay in making sure their MMR and HPV vaccinations are up-to-date’.
He said: ‘Vaccines only work if people have them so it is essential that parents continue to get their children vaccinated, despite the ongoing pandemic. They will not be burdening the NHS – they are safeguarding it for the future.
‘Just as Covid vaccines have been a game-changer for the pandemic, the MMR and HPV programmes have also been game-changers in recent years, minimising the threat of childhood diseases and even saving lives. This important progress must not be undone; we cannot allow this pandemic to leave behind another devastating legacy,’ he added.
The committee noted a decrease in the number of children getting vaccinations occurring across all ages, as well as ‘very large decreases’ among the elderly for shingles vaccination.
More than 10% less older people had been jabbed against shingles between April and June 2020 compared to the previous year.
The JCVI also said that ‘[d]ata for England mirrored that for the UK’.
Professor Helen Bedford, immunisation lead for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: ‘The diseases that these vaccines prevent have not gone away and the lower protection among children gives them an opportunity to re-emerge.’