Call for vaccination strategy urgency amid 'dramatic decline in take-up'

A call has been made for the Government to publish its vaccination strategy as soon as possible ‘to help reverse a dramatic decline in take-up’.

By Ben O'Connell
Tuesday, 18th February 2020, 3:06 pm
Stock picture from PA
Stock picture from PA

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents councils in England and Wales, supports the Government’s ambition to raise vaccination rates to at least 95%, which can reduce the risk of contracting disease and ultimately save lives.

In a report published last week, the LGA set out how local authorities are continuing to find new and innovative ways of raising immunisation levels in their communities, including reaching out to those most in need or at risk.

While uptake for most childhood immunisations is at more than 90%, there has been a significant decline in coverage in the last few years with the UK losing its measles-free status with the World Health Organisation, three years after the virus had been eliminated in the country.

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The Government’s vaccination strategy was first announced in the prevention green paper last summer, but was then delayed due to the General Election.

Coun Ian Hudspeth, chairman of the LGA’s community wellbeing board, said: “By working closely with local GPs, NHS England, community groups and others, councils’ public health teams are finding new and innovative ways of reaching out to people who might not otherwise be protected from deadly diseases and are doing what they can to keep immunity levels high.

“However there is still more to do. In addition to the publication of vaccination strategy as soon as possible, councils need greater powers of oversight to ensure that those responsible for delivering vaccinations do so promptly.

“No one who needs to be immunised should miss out unnecessarily.”

As previously reported, the latest figures show that fewer than 90% of five-year-olds in Northumberland had received both doses of the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine last year, with just two local authorities managing to hit the 95% target – County Durham and Cumbria.

Of the 13 measures recorded in NHS Digital’s childhood vaccination statistics for England in 2018-19, Northumberland missed the 95% target in six of them, although for four of them, including the first dose of MMR by age two, the county had a figure of above 94%.

Northumberland’s rates across all 13 were above the English average, however, and where the county missed the 95% mark, less than 20 local authorities did meet the target and in some cases, there were only a handful of councils that managed it.

In most of these, County Durham had the highest rates in England, while North Tyneside, South Tyneside and Sunderland also performed well, which explains why Northumberland was below the regional average for all but four of the measures.

Despite the missed targets though, Northumberland’s coverage rates actually improved last year in five of the vaccination measures compared to 2017-18 – four of which were measured at age one. This suggests an improvement which could follow through as these children grow older, as some of the other vaccinations are measured at age two or five.