Baby vaccination rates for MMR remain below key immunity level in Lancashire
Despite an increase in MMR vaccination rates across England, the British Society for Immunology warned that the national level was still below target and could mean diseases such as measles spreading to vulnerable, unvaccinated people.
This was the same proportion of two-year-olds who were vaccinated the year before, but means 1,063 babies were not inoculated this year.
Across England, the proportion of children having their first dose of the jab increased from 90.3 per cent in 2018-19 to 90.6 per cent in 2019-20 – though it is still well below the 95 per cent needed for herd immunity.
This is the first time in six years that MMR coverage nationwide has increased, following a peak of 92.7 per cent in 2013-14.
Vaccination rates fell and measles rates began to rise following a study in 1998 by Dr Andrew Wakefield claiming the jabs were unsafe.
The findings were later discredited and the General Medical Council (GMC) struck him off, ruling he had been “dishonest, irresponsible and showed callous disregard for the distress and pain” of children.
The NHS figures show an increase in coverage in six of the nine English regions in 2019-20, with the North West having the sixth highest level of coverage, at 91.9 per cent.
The North East, at 95.1 per cent, was the only region to reach the target, while the uptake rate in London was 83.6 per cent, the lowest in England.
Dr Doug Brown, chief executive of the British Society for Immunology, welcomed the “small increase in uptake for most routine vaccinations” but said “none of them have reached the necessary uptake level of 95% at the correct timepoint.”
He added: “The slight rise in uptake of routine childhood vaccinations in England 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 as it means diseases such as measles have the potential to spread within our communities, infecting unvaccinated people, including vulnerable individuals unable to have vaccinations such as young babies or people with cancer.”
In Lancashire, 86.3 per cent of children had received both doses of the MMR vaccine before the age of five in 2019-20 – compared to 86.8 per cent across England.
Dr Nikki Kanani, GP and NHS national director of primary care, said: “Vaccines provide vital protection against life-threatening diseases and so it is great that coverage of MMR is increasing, but we want even more parents to come forward and get their children vaccinated.
“NHS staff are working hard to ensure that MMR and other vital vaccination appointments are still going ahead safely throughout the pandemic, so 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.”
Separate national figures from Public Health England show the number of vaccinations for the first MMR vaccine dipped in the weeks after the coronavirus lockdown was introduced.
The PHE report suggested stay-at-home messaging and difficulty in getting a GP appointment may have contributed to a “large decline” in vaccine uptake, though rates have since risen again.