Families urged to bring their children forward for routine immunisations to protect against ‘terrible diseases’

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Health chiefs are urging parents, guardians and families in Wigan to ensure their children are up to date with their routine childhood immunisations for World Immunisation Week (24 -30 April).

The latest published data for the north-west region, from October to December 2023, shows almost 15% of children were not fully vaccinated (doses 1 and 2) against measles, mumps and rubella by the time they started school.

Uptake of both doses of vaccine, which is usually given to children aged one and then a second vaccine at around three years and four months, is 85.2% in the north-west – and lower than 80% in some areas – which like many parts of the country is significantly lower than the World Health Organisation target of 95% coverage with two doses of MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine by five years of age.

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Stock image of child being given immunisation jab (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)Stock image of child being given immunisation jab (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Stock image of child being given immunisation jab (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

The MMR vaccination is proven to be very effective and safe in protecting children against these highly infectious conditions, which are easily spread between unvaccinated people.

NHS England North West recently partnered with the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), NHS Greater Manchester and Liverpool City Council to launch a new multi-media marketing campaign across England, to remind parents and guardians of the risk of their children missing out on protection against serious diseases that are re-emerging in the country.

Tricia Spedding, Deputy Head of Public Health at NHS England – North West said: “World Immunisation Week is the perfect opportunity to remind families across the region of how important it is for children to receive their routine vaccinations, as soon as they become eligible, especially given the recent rise in measles rates across the country.

“Since vaccines were introduced in the UK, many deadly diseases have been either eradicated or are seen very rarely. However, if people stop having vaccines, it's possible for infectious diseases like measles to quickly spread again.

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“It’s really important that babies and children have vaccinations as soon as they are offered to make sure they are protected from the earliest possible age, and we recommend that parents whose children are due to start school this September make sure they’ve had all of their routine vaccinations so they can be fully protected from preventable illnesses.”

The routine childhood immunisation programme is designed to provide early protection against vaccine-preventable infections from eight weeks of age, with boosters offered at 12 months and before starting primary school.

Hayley Mercer, Consultant in Health Protection & Vaccine preventable Disease Lead, UK Health Security Agency North West said: “Vaccination is one of the most important things we can do to give children the very best start in life. If children aren’t vaccinated, they’re not protected. It’s incredibly important for children to stay up to date with routine vaccinations as this remains one of our best defences against infectious diseases like measles, not just for the person being vaccinated but for their family, friends and those around them.

“I would urge parents to check that all children are up to date with their vaccines, and if not to get them booked in as soon as possible to make sure they have maximum protection against what can be terrible diseases. Childhood vaccines also boost population immunity levels, helping prevent outbreaks, so by taking up all vaccinations for our children, we play our part in protecting us all.”

In the north-west, uptake of the 6-in-1 vaccination, which includes diphtheria, hepatitis B, Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type b), polio, tetanus and whooping cough (pertussis) is 94.2% which has improved on the 91.1% at the same point last year.

Uptake of rotavirus vaccine, which can only be given to babies up to 15 weeks old to protect them from the most common cause of gastroenteritis, is 86.5% in the region, compared with a national average of 89.3%.

If parents and carers are unsure if their child is up to date with vaccinations, they can check their Red Book (personal child health record) or speak to their GP surgery.

To find out more about the routine childhood immunisation programme, visit NHS vaccinations and when to have them on the NHS website.

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