Alarm as uptake drops for all routine child jabs

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Coverage of all routine childhood vaccinations for the under-fives has fallen in the past year, figures show.

NHS data for 2018-19 showed uptake of the first dose of the MMR vaccine fell from 91.2% to 90.3% in England – the fifth year in a row it has dropped.

The other vaccines that saw falls include those that protect against tetanus, diphtheria and polio.

Health officials warned that children were being put at risk by the decision to shun these routine vaccinations.

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Public Health England’s head of immunisations Dr Mary Ramsay said while the percentage changes might seem small, the impact should not be underestimated.

“There are big drops in terms of public health. The trend is concerning.

“No parent should be in any doubt of the devastating impact of these diseases.

“It’s vital that everyone recognises the value of vaccines and takes up this life-saving offer.”

The measles problem

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Media captionJilly Moss’s one-year-old daughter contracted measles weeks before she was due to be vaccinated

It was announced last month that the UK had lost its World Health Organization measles-free status, three years after the virus was eliminated.

The target for MMR uptake is 95%. There are two doses – one given just after a child’s first birthday and then a second dose before school.

No part of England is achieving the 95% target for the first dose, with all parts of England seeing a fall in uptake in the past year with the exception of the North East.

Coverage rates for the second dose dropped from 87.2% to 86.4%.

However, Northern Ireland and Scotland are seeing vaccination rates above that level for the first dose. Wales is not.

Other countries are also struggling with the disease – globally the number of cases nearly tripled in the first seven months of the year compared with the same period in 2018.

Measles is now endemic in a number of countries, including France, Germany and Italy.

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Media captionThe BBC investigated in 2018 why there’s been a measles outbreak in Europe

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the situation was “unacceptable”.

“Everyone has a role to play in halting this decline.

“The loss of our measles-free status is a stark reminder that devastating diseases can, and will, resurface.

“We need to be bold and I will not rule out action so that every child is properly protected.”

The idea of compulsory vaccination has been put forward by some.

But so far, the government has focused on working with social media companies to make sure misleading anti-vaccine messages are quashed and getting GPs to promote catch-up vaccinations for children.


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