Wigan achieves 'herd immunity' for deadly diseases

The jab protects against six diseases
The jab protects against six diseases

Wigan Council has disputed concerning figures suggesting that dozens of babies have missed out on vital vaccinations against deadly diseases.

The town hall says that the borough has achieved “herd immunity”, meaning that there has been more than 95 per cent of vaccination uptake.

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Babies normally receive the so-called six-in-one jab, which protects against six serious infections including polio, whooping cough and diphtheria, in the first few months of their lives.

But new Public Health England data shows that 88 infants who had their first birthday in the six months to March did not have the vaccination.

The majority – 95 per cent – of babies in Wigan did have the jab – in line with the vaccination rate recommended by the World Health Organisation to prevent outbreaks.

Across England, the vaccination rate for the jab was 92 per cent..

Professor Arne Akbar, president of the British Society for Immunology, described the low rate as “concerning”.

He said: “Lower vaccination rates mean that these diseases can potentially spread within our communities, with unvaccinated babies and individuals with compromised immune systems particularly at risk.”

Professor Akbar said the Government should work with the NHS and councils to ensure vaccination services are accessible and that reliable information is available.

He added: “Vaccination saves lives and is one of the safest and most effective methods we have to prevent disease.

“We owe it to our children to make sure we do all we can to provide them with that protection.”

Babies should have three rounds of the six-in-one vaccination at eight, 12 and 16 weeks of age.

It helps them develop a strong immunity to diphtheria, hepatitis B, haemophilus influenza type b, polio, tetanus and whooping cough.

The council disputed the initial figures, saying that they do not portray how the borough fares compared to the national target, which is measured as coverage at 24 months and not six months.

A town hall spokesperson said: “Wigan is the only borough in Greater Manchester to achieve the 95 per cent target at 24 months.

“Wigan has had no cases of diphtheria, tetanus or polio in the last several years. Routine coverage of the six in one vaccine at 24 months is 97.2 per cent - comfortably above the 95 per cent target.

“We want to emphasise that uptake in the borough is extremely good and we have achieved what’s called herd immunity (the 95 per cent population vaccination rate).”