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Fears of polio and measles outbreaks as child vaccination rates fall – The Times - 29.09.22

The uptake of lifesaving childhood vaccinations has plummeted to the lowest level for a decade amid fears antivax myths are discouraging parents from booking appointments - article by Eleanor Hayward.

Health officials said they were “extremely worried” about the threat to children as NHS England figures revealed coverage of 13 of the 14 routine immunisations fell last year. This has also been linked to Covid disruption.

For the first time, no vaccines met the 95 per cent uptake target set by the World Health Organisation to sufficiently protect a population against deadly diseases including measles, typhoid and polio.

Only 89.2 per cent of one-year-old children received their first dose of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) jab in 2021-22. This is the first time the figure has fallen below 90 per cent since 2010-11, and is down from a peak of 92.7 per cent in 2013-14.

Uptake of the second dose, offered at the age of three years and four months, has fallen to 85.7 per cent, also the lowest level for a decade.

This means there are 740,000 children aged between one and six in England who are not protected against measles, which can lead to pneumonia and brain inflammation.

The NHS said the decrease is partly due to disruption to the GP-led vaccination programmes during Covid lockdowns.

Experts say some parents are also being put off by antivax myths spread on social media, adding that some are complacent over the threat of infectious diseases often seen as historic.

Today’s figures revealed a downward trend in all childhood vaccines including the six-in-one jab, which protects against diphtheria, hepatitis B, Hib, polio, tetanus and whooping cough.

“The British Society for Immunology is calling once again on urgent action from the government — the promised vaccine strategy outlining the plan to increase childhood vaccine uptake is still yet to be published. This includes strengthening the role of local immunisation co-ordinators, ensuring services are accessible, widening community outreach and increasing engagement with parents to answer their questions on vaccines.”

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Fears of polio and measles outbreaks as child vaccination rates fall – by Eleanor Hayward
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The fall in vaccination rates has been linked to antivax myths and disruption to GP programmes during Covid lockdowns


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