Children in Lancashire at risk of avoidable serious illness due to missing vital routine vaccinations

Regional health chiefs are warning parents and guardians in Lancashire of the serious health risks from children missing routine immunisations as new data shows vaccination coverage for young children fell last year for virtually all programmes.
An MMR vaccine programme is being rolled outAn MMR vaccine programme is being rolled out
An MMR vaccine programme is being rolled out

Parents and guardians across the county are being urged to ensure their children are up to date with all their routine childhood immunisations including polio and measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccinations.

Vaccination rates have fallen over several years and additional disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, beginning in March 2020, is likely to have caused some of the decreases in vaccine coverage seen in 2020-21 and 2021-22 compared to earlier years.

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The latest vaccination statistics from the UKHSA and NHS Digital for children up to five years of age in the UK shows coverage decreased for 13 out of the 14 routine vaccination programmes measured in 2021-22.

In the North West, the figures show:

only 90.3% of children had completed their first dose of the MMR vaccine by the time they were 2 years old, which is a decrease from 91% in the previous year. The rate has been steadily decreasing from 94.9% in 2012. coverage for the second dose of MMR by age 5 years in 2021-22 was at 87.1% coverage for the first dose of MMR at 24 months was less than 90% in 5 (out of 23) North West upper tier local authorities with only 1 above 95%.

Since the introduction of the measles vaccine in 1968 it is estimated that 20 million measles cases and 4,500 deaths have been prevented in the UK.

Measles is highly contagious so even a small decline in MMR uptake can lead to a rise in cases. Since international travel has resumed closer to pre-pandemic levels, it is more likely that measles will be brought in from countries that have higher levels of the disease and cause outbreaks.

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Measles can lead to complications such as ear infections, pneumonia, and inflammation of the brain which require hospitalisation and on rare occasions can lead to long term disability or death.

Dr Merav Kliner, Deputy Director at UKHSA North West, said: “Measles is highly contagious and can be dangerous, and it is extremely worrying that we are seeing levels of uptake of the MMR vaccine falling among young children.”