The proportion of children getting vaccinated on time dropped for all 13 jabs in England last year.
Fewer families are managing to get their children immunised against deadly diseases such as measles, polio, tetanus and meningitis than in 2017-18.
Vaccination rates have fallen despite Government threats to stop children starting school if they’re not protected and attempts to stop anti-vaxx myths spreading.
Measles cases around the world have soared this year and, although the effects on the UK haven’t been as bad, there are concerns people are getting complacent.
Some of the fall in vaccinations has been attributed to claims they don’t work or are harmful, which Prime Minister Boris Johnson dubbed ‘superstitious mumbo jumbo’.
But many may miss the jabs because such low rates of illnesses like polio – there hasn’t been a UK case since the 1980s, thanks to the vaccine – mean people have forgotten how serious they are, one expert said.
The Government’s Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, said the drop was ‘unacceptable’ and that he wouldn’t rule out sending children home from school.
Vaccination rates fell for all 13 immunisations in England between the years of 2017-18 and 2018-19, NHS Digital figures revealed this morning. Health officials have warned the drops are ‘unacceptable’ and ‘concerning’
The damning statistics were released by the NHS earlier today and show more needs to be done to increase how many children get vaccinated before starting school.
For individual jabs, the decreases from last year ranged from drops of 0.2 to 1 per cent.
The worst change was for the DTap-IPV-Hib among one-year-olds, which dropped by one percentage point to 92.1 per cent – its lowest level since 2008-09.
The smallest fall was for the Hib/Meningitis C protection among five-year-olds, which dropped 0.2 per cent from 92.4 to 92.2.
Coverage for the a single dose of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine by the age of five is 94.5 per cent, down from 94.9 per cent in 2017-18 and below the 95 per cent target set by the World Health Organization.
HOW DID RATES OF THE 13 VACCINATIONS CHANGE LAST YEAR?
PCV booster (24m)
DTap-Hib boost (5y)
2017-18 (% coverage)
2018-19 (% coverage)
Source: NHS Digital
To give full protection, however, children should have two doses of MMR by the time they’re five, and only 86.4 per cent of children had received this last year.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘Falling childhood vaccination rates are unacceptable. Everyone has a role to play in halting this decline.
‘The loss of our measles-free status is a stark reminder that devastating diseases can, and will, resurface.
‘We need to be bold and I will not rule out action so that every child is properly protected.’
The vaccines covered by the figures include the DTap-IPV-Hib, also known as the six-in-one, which protects against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) and and hepatitis B.
Children also get the PCV vaccine, to protect against a pneumonia-causing bacteria; the Rotavirus vaccine; the MMR vaccine and one for meningitis C.
WHERE HAVE THE FEWEST CHILDREN HAD BOTH MMR JABS BY AGE FIVE?
- Westminster (64.1%)
- Hackney (65.7%)
- Kensington/Chelsea (66.7%)
- Croydon (67.7%)
- Camden (68.4%)
- Merton (68.6%)
- Newham (68.7%)
- Hammersmith/Fulham (70.9%)
- Haringey (71.2%)
- Redbridge (71.5%)
WHERE HAVE THE MOST CHILDREN HAD BOTH MMR JABS BY AGE FIVE?
- County Durham (96.4%)
- Cumbria (95.7%)
- Barnsley (94.9%)
- NE Lincolnshire (94.8%)
- North Tyneside (94.5%)
- Dorset (94.3%)
- Trafford (94.3%)
- Leicestershire (93.9%)
- Plymouth (93.9%)
- Rochdale (93.4%)
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he would consider ‘bold action’ such as taking children out of school if they haven’t had the proper vaccinations to protect themselves and others
CLAIM VACCINES AREN’T SAFE IS ‘ABSOLUTELY WRONG’
The UK’s chief medical officer – the top advisor to the Government – last year criticised people spreading lies about vaccines being unsafe.
Dame Sally Davies, speaking on the 30th anniversary of the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) jab, said people spreading the ‘myths’ were ‘absolutely wrong’.
She said in November: ‘Over 30 years, we have vaccinated millions of children. It is a safe vaccination, we know that, and we’ve saved millions of lives across the world.
‘People who spread these myths, when children die they will not be there to pick up the pieces or the blame.’
One myth is based on research done by Andrew Wakefield in the 1990s which claimed MMR led to autism, but his results were later found to be fake, and the work was called ‘fatally flawed’, ‘fraudulent’ and ‘dishonest’ by experts in the field.
Others claim the vaccine doesn’t work – but after the introduction of MMR in 1963, global measles deaths dropped, on average, from 2.6million to around 100,000, according to the WHO.
The vaccine was introduced by the NHS in 1988, a year in which there were 86,001 cases of measles in England – within 10 years, in 1998, this had dropped to just 3,728 reported.
The figure has fluctuated since, believed to be partly due to the Wakefield scare in the mid-90s, but in 2017 there were reports of only 1,693 measles cases in England.
(Note: Figures quoted are cases reported to Public Health England and not lab-confirmed numbers)
Most require more than one dose before the child turns five in order for them to be fully effective. Coverage rates for second doses tend to be significantly lower than for firsts.
The NHS’s figures gave a geographical breakdown of the country and showed all of the 20 boroughs with the worst MMR coverage were in London.
Westminster fared worst, with just 64.1 per cent of youngsters being given both doses of the MMR jab by their fifth birthday.
Hackney (65.7 per cent), Kensington and Chelsea (66.7 per cent), Croydon (67.7 per cent) and Camden (68.4 per cent) rounded off the top five.
At the other end of the scale was County Durham, where the rate of five-year-olds having both MMR doses was 96.4 per cent. The rate for England was 86.4 per cent.
The NHS’s medical director for England, Professor Stephen Powis, said: ‘Vaccines are a vital, life-saving part of our country’s public health and the numbers of children not being vaccinated is concerning.
‘No one should be complacent about getting their own or their child’s jabs and so the NHS is taking action, with its partners, to combat the decline and to reverse the dangerous effects of complacency about vaccines.’
NHS England said it would be writing to GPs to promote catch-up vaccination programmes for children and young adults who missed them, updating advice on its website to address parents’ concerns about jabs, and working to develop a ‘comprehensive strategy’ to be published later this year.
The NHS figures comes as the UK was one of four countries to this year lose its ‘measles eliminated’ status from the World Health Organization.
This is awarded to countries which have managed to almost completely prevent the spread of the infection for three years.
As well as the UK, Greece, Albania and the Czech Republic also lost their elimination status as the countries battle against rising numbers of people catching the illness.
Public Health England’s head of immunisation, Dr Mary Ramsay, added: ‘Although these changes are small proportions, these are big drops in terms of public health.
‘The trend is a concerning continuation of what we’ve seen in the last five years.
‘No parent should be in any doubt of the devastating impact of these diseases. It’s vital that everyone recognises the value of vaccines and takes up this life-saving offer.’
|AREA||% 1ST AND 2ND DOSE
|AREA||% 1ST AND 2ND DOSE
|Kensington and Chelsea||66.7||Gateshead||88.6|
|Camden||68.4||Cheshire West and Chester||88.7|
|Newham||68.7||Newcastle upon Tyne||89.0|
|Hammersmith and Fulham||70.9||North Yorkshire||89.0|
|Islington||72.1||Blackburn with Darwen||89.1|
|Barking and Dagenham||73.3||Bury||89.2|
|Kingston upon Thames||75.0||Nottinghamshire||89.5|
|Richmond upon Thames||75.9||Hampshire||89.8|
|Tower Hamlets||82.0||East Sussex||90.4|
|Brighton and Hove||83.6||Milton Keynes||90.7|
|Isle of Wight||84.2||Wigan||90.9|
|Lancashire||85.3||East Riding of Yorkshire||91.5|
|Herefordshire||85.3||Redcar and Cleveland||91.6|
|Windsor and Maidenhead||86.4||Wakefield||92.2|
|Sheffield||87.1||Bath and North East Somerset||93.1|
|Telford and Wrekin||87.5||Torbay||93.3|
|Kingston upon Hull||87.9||Trafford||94.3|
|York||88.1||North East Lincolnshire||94.8|
WHICH VACCINES SHOULD CHILDREN HAVE HAD BY THE AGE OF 18?
Vaccinations for various unpleasant and deadly diseases are given free on the NHS to children and teenagers.
Here is a list of all the jabs someone should have by the age of 18 to make sure they and others across the country are protected:
Eight weeks old
- 6-in-1 vaccine for diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), and hepatitis B.
- Pneumococcal (PCV)
- Meningitis B
12 weeks old
- Second doses of 6-in-1 and Rotavirus
16 weeks old
- Third dose of 6-in-1
- Second doses of PCV and men. B
One year old
- Hib/meningitis C
- Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR)
- Third dose of PCV and meningitis B
Two to eight years old
- Annual children’s flu vaccine
Three years, four months old
- Second dose of MMR
- 4-in-1 pre-school booster for diptheria, tetanus, polio and whooping cough
12-13 years old (girls)
- HPV (two doses within a year)
14 years old
- 3-in-1 teenage booster for diptheria, tetanus and polio
Source: NHS Choices