Childhood vaccination uptake continues ‘worrying’ downward trend

MMR coverage dropped for fourth consecutive year, figures show

Picture: SPL

Public health experts have warned about the ‘worrying’ decline in childhood vaccination uptake and called for lessons to be learned from high-performing regions.

New data from NHS Digital show that in 2017-18 coverage in England declined for nine of the 12 routine vaccinations at age 12 months, 24 months or five years, compared with the previous year.

Coverage for the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine for children reaching their second birthday was 91.2% in England last year, down from 91.6% in 2016-17, the report says.

It is the fourth consecutive year that MMR coverage has dropped, and the figure is below the World Health Organization target of 95%.

‘Turning the clock back’

RCN professional lead for public health Helen Donovan said: ‘For the first time last year, Britain was declared free of endemic measles, but these figures show we are turning the clock back and leaving thousands of children unprotected.’

She added that the figures mean immunity against deadly and life-changing diseases such as tetanus, diphtheria and polio is dropping: ‘These were diseases of the past. They should not be part of our future.’

British Society for Immunology chief executive Doug Brown said: ‘The government needs to work with the NHS and local authorities to prioritise immunisation services and learn lessons from regions that are performing well.’

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