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Worried looking young girl sits on the sofa with a young baby on her lap. Wording says: "If you're not vaccinated we're not protected. Book now at their GP practice. NHS."

Drive to boost childhood vaccinations

by Cathy Sheel

Parents and carers are being urged to ensure their children catch up on missed vaccinations as the number of childhood infections like measles and whooping cough are on the rise.

Health professionals in Knowsley are highlighting the risk to unvaccinated children who are missing out on protection against serious preventable diseases that are re-emerging in communities.

Uptake levels of childhood vaccines offered through the routine NHS vaccination programme in England have been falling over the past decade – including vaccinations against whooping cough, measles, mumps and rubella, polio, meningitis and diphtheria.

As a result, England no longer has the levels of population immunity recommended by the World Health Organisation needed to prevent outbreaks.

To tackle this decline, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) is co-ordinating a national marketing campaign to try and boost the number of parents getting their children vaccinated, including a drive to increase the numbers receiving MMR (measles) vaccinations.

Areas with low uptake will be a focus for support and parents of children aged from six to 11 years will be contacted directly and urged to make an appointment with their child’s GP practice for any missed MMR vaccines.

Immunisations offer the best protection for children against many common illnesses – preventing over 5,000 deaths and over 100,000 hospital admissions each year.

All routine childhood vaccinations are free and catch up doses can easily be booked with GP surgeries. Parents are encouraged to check their children’s Red Book to ensure they’re up to date.

Dr Jenny Harries, CEO of the UKHSA said:

“We need an urgent reversal of the decline in the uptake of childhood vaccinations to protect our communities. Through this campaign we are particularly appealing to parents to check their children’s vaccination status and book appointments if their children have missed any immunisations. The ongoing measles outbreak we are seeing is a reminder of the very present threat.

“While the majority of the country is protected, there are still high numbers of children in some areas that continue to be unprotected from preventable diseases. It is not just their own health that can suffer, but other unvaccinated people around them such as school friends, family and those in their community could also experience serious infections.

“Unless uptake improves we will start to see the diseases that these vaccines protect against re-emerging and causing more serious illness.”

The Living Well Bus, a service delivered by Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, is offering all routine vaccinations, including MMR, to eligible individuals, alongside health checks and wider wellbeing guidance. The bus operates a walk-in service and will be at select locations across Cheshire and Merseyside. Visit the www.cwp.nhs.uk/livingwellservice for upcoming clinics near you.