Childhood vaccines: nurses are key to increasing their uptake, RCN says

Data show a consistent fall in children being vaccinated against a variety of conditions
Child receiving a vaccine

Data show a consistent fall in children being vaccinated against a variety of conditions

Picture: Alamy

Nurses have a pivotal role to play in reversing the downward trend of childhood vaccine uptake in England, the RCN has urged.

Data from NHS Digital show that uptake for the first dose of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine – given at 24 months – fell from 91.2% in 2017-18 to to 90.3% in 2018-19. The World Health Organisation target is 95%. This is the fifth consecutive year that MMR coverage has decreased.

Statistics reveal fall in a range of vaccinations  

The proportion of children at 12 months who received the combined vaccine for diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) fell from 93.1% to 92.1% over the same period. This is the sixth annual decrease in a row. 

There was also a fall in the proportion of children vaccinated against rotavirus, as well as the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, the combined Hib/meningitis C vaccine and the meningitis B vaccine.

RCN professional lead for public health Helen Donovan said: ‘Nurses are pivotal to earning public trust in the vaccination programme, and they are a vital source of information for parents and guardians.’

She added, however, that the job of public health and primary care nurses was made more difficult due to fragmented services and widespread vacancies.

‘A system-wide approach, better access to appointments, and improved public information and communication with parents on a one-to-one level, is the most effective way to ensure more people receive the vaccines they need,’ she said.

Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock told an event at the Conservative Party conference that he was ‘looking very seriously’ at making vaccinations compulsory for all children going to school in England.

Public Health England head of immunisation Mary Ramsay said: ‘Although these changes [in uptake] are small proportions, these are big drops in terms of public health.

‘The trend is a concerning continuation of what we’ve seen in the last five years.’

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