Baby jab rates in Northumberland remain below target

The proportion of babies vaccinated for measles, mumps and rubella has fell in Northumberland – and remain below the level needed for herd immunity.

Baby immunisation rates in Northumberland remain below the target level.
Baby immunisation rates in Northumberland remain below the target level.

Despite an increase in MMR vaccination rates nationally, the British Society for Immunology warned that the level was still below the 95% target and could mean diseases spreading to vulnerable, unvaccinated people.

Figures from NHS Digital show 94% of babies in the area received the first dose of the MMR vaccination by their second birthday in 2019-20.

This figure represents a decrease on the 94.2% the year before, and means that there were still 176 babies not inoculated this year.

Nationally, the proportion of children having their first dose of the jab increased from 90.3% in 2018-19 to 90.6% in 2019-20 – still well below the 95% needed for herd immunity.

This is the first time in six years that MMR coverage nationwide has increased, following a peak of 92.7% in 2013-14.

Vaccination rates fell and measles rates began to rise following a – later discredited – study in 1998 which claimed the jabs were unsafe.

Dr Doug Brown, chief executive of the British Society for Immunology, welcomed the “small increase in uptake” but says more action is needed.

He said: "It is a step in the right direction but we must still take urgent action to overcome the ongoing trend of missing the 95% target set out by the World Health Organisation.

“Low levels of vaccination coverage matter. It means diseases such as measles have the potential to spread, infecting unvaccinated people, including vulnerable individuals.

In Northumberland, 92.5% of children had received both doses of the MMR vaccine before the age of five in 2019-20 – compared to 86.8% across England.

Dr Nikki Kanani, GP and NHS national director of primary care, said: “Vaccines provide vital protection against life-threatening diseases and NHS staff are working hard to ensure that MMR and other vital vaccination appointments are still going ahead safely throughout the pandemic.

"As a mum and a GP, I want to remind other parents that getting your kids their vaccination is not only safe, but potentially life-saving.”