Campaign launched to drive up childhood vaccinations

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has today launched a campaign across England to remind parents and carers of the importance of making sure their children are vaccinated against serious diseases – some of which, such as measles and whooping cough, are re-emerging in the UK.

The campaign includes an urgent call to action for parents and carers to make sure their children catch up on any missed childhood vaccinations. It comes as the latest update on measles cases in England (published 29 February) shows there had been another 69 cases of the disease recorded during the previous week, bringing the total number of laboratory confirmed measles cases between 1 October 2023 and 29 February 2024 to 650.

Uptake levels of childhood vaccines offered through the routine NHS vaccination programme in England have been falling over the past decade across all vaccines, including whooping cough, measles, mumps and rubella, polio, meningitis and diphtheria – with England no longer having the levels of population immunity recommended by the World Health Organisation that is needed to prevent outbreaks. Crucially, lower vaccine uptake within communities is directly linked to wider health inequalities.

Professor Dame Jenny Harries, Chief Executive of 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.

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

The UK’s childhood vaccination programme prevents around 5,000 deaths and more than 100,000 hospital admissions each year in England. Vaccinations have ensured the UK has been declared free of diseases such as polio, with others, like diphtheria, almost fully controlled. However, in recent years we have seen a trend of lower vaccine uptake, and this has been exacerbated by the pandemic. England no longer has the high levels of population immunity recommended by the World Health Organisation for highly-infectious diseases like measles to be eliminated (95%), and this has led to increased risk for those who are unvaccinated or under-vaccinated.

Preventable childhood infections can have a huge impact on a child’s life. They can miss out on education due to time spent unwell, be hospitalised, have life-long complications such as deafness, blindness, encephalitis (infection of the brain) and paralysis. Sometimes they can even cause death.

To see if your child is up to date with their childhood vaccinations, check their Personal Child Health Record (PCHR), known as the red book, or contact your GP practice.

If you have a child of school age and you’re not sure of their vaccination status, you can also contact our School Age Immunisation team, who will check your child’s record and arrange to give them any childhood/school-age vaccinations they may have missed.

To contact the School Age Immunisation Team call 0300 421 8140, or email GHC.Immunisation@ghc.nhs.uk

For further information about school-age immunisations and our immunisation team, visit: School-aged Immunisation Team > CYPS Glos Health & Care NHS (ghc.nhs.uk)

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