Wigan behind target of children vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella by age five

More than nine in 10 Wigan children are vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella by the age of five – but the area is still behind target, figures show.

Friday, 22nd October 2021, 10:20 am
Wigan is behind target

Hundreds of youngsters in the area were not fully vaccinated against the trio of potentially life-threatening diseases by their fifth birthday last year, according to the latest childhood vaccination statistics.

The MMR jab protects against measles, mumps and rubella, highly infectious conditions which can have life-changing consequences.

For a child to be fully protected, they should receive two vaccinations, the first at the age of one and the second when they are three.

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But NHS Digital figures show 91 per cent of children in Wigan were fully vaccinated by their fifth birthday in 2020-21 – below the 95 per cent target set by the World Health Organisation.

It meant 320 children did not receive both doses of the MMR jab by age five.

Wigan is home to founder of the Jabs campaign group, Jackie Fletcher, whose son Robert won a vaccine damage pay-out after MMR was blamed on causing fits which left him disabled as an infant.

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Jabs has long campaigned for parents to be able to request the different components of the inoculation to be made available separately, claiming it is the “cocktail effect” of the three vaccines that poses a risk.

But the authorities have resisted the call saying there is a much better chance of gaining herd immunity if the MMR is administered together because it involves far fewer trips to the doctor’s, thus making a higher uptake likelier. They also argue that the risks from measles are far higher than those from the vaccine.

The latest uptake figures suggest significant disparities in vaccine uptake across local authority areas, with 96 per cent of five-year-olds fully vaccinated in County Durham compared to 60 per cent in Camden.

Measles, mumps and rubella can easily spread between unvaccinated people and can lead to serious problems including meningitis, hearing loss and problems during pregnancy.

Dr Vanessa Saliba, from the UK Health Security Agency, said anyone without two doses of the vaccination remained at risk.

She said coverage had fallen nationally due to the coronavirus pandemic, increasing the risk of a resurgence of the diseases.

Dr Saliba added: “It’s essential that parents take up the offer of MMR for their

children.

“If your child has missed one or both of their MMR vaccinations, contact your GP surgery to arrange an appointment as soon as possible – it is never too late to catch up.”

Last year, 94 per cent of infants in Wigan had their first jab before the age of two, suggesting around 209 babies did not receive the routine immunisation.

Across England, 90 per cent of two-year-olds and 94 per cent of five-year-olds had received the initial vaccine in 2020-21, meaning both proportions were slightly down from the year before.

Around 87 pe cent of five-year-olds had received both jabs by their fifth birthday.

An NHS spokeswoman urged parents to check their child’s medical records and ensure immunisations were up to date, adding: “It’s vital that parents ensure their children are fully protected with this jab – which can ultimately save a child’s life.”

The recently launched Office for Health Improvement and Disparities, part of the Government’s Department of Health and Social Care, is working to reduce health disparities and improve access to services.

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