Our primary care colleagues have continued to ensure key childhood vaccinations are prioritised during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although many areas maintained high uptake rates for childhood vaccinations, there remain several ongoing challenges in delivering the childhood immunisation programme.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) listed vaccine hesitancy as one of the top 10 threats to health for 2019. The reasons why individuals choose not to get vaccinated are complex. However, the WHO have identified 3 key reasons: complacency, inconvenience in accessing vaccines and lack of confidence.
Anecdotal evidence from primary care colleagues reflects an increase in vaccination hesitancy for some childhood immunisations, potentially linked to parental concerns with the COVID-19 vaccine.
The Improving Immunisation Uptake Team (IIUT) continue to support our colleagues in primary care to work with parents and families who have genuine questions about childhood vaccination. The opportunity to discuss these questions with a health care professional can help them to make informed choices
One of the key childhood immunisations is Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR). The 2022 national MMR catch-up campaign aims to encourage parents to ensure their children are fully vaccinated against MMR. The current national coverage of MMR is 86.6%. This dropped during the pandemic, and second doses are at the lowest uptake in a decade.
Primary care colleagues are encouraged to promote the campaign by displaying promotional resources in the surgery and on their websites. It is recommended that all staff in primary care are aware of the campaign and the risks of contracting MMR so that they can support parents to make informed choices, as to whether or not they wish their child to receive either the MMR vaccination or any others. As part of the national campaign, parents /guardians of children who are not up to date with MMR will be sent a reminder letter in April. Parents can also be signposted to useful information such as the Oxford Vaccine Group website, which provides independent information about vaccines and infectious diseases.
Ensuring families who move to the UK from overseas can access childhood vaccinations is another key challenge for primary care. The IIUT have supported colleagues across the areas we serve, to ensure families arriving from overseas, including refugees, are provided with the opportunity to have their children vaccinated.
Access to vaccination for refugees from countries such as Ukraine is needed to protect the most vulnerable from vaccine-preventable diseases. Protecting the health of all, including refugees is a priority concern for the WHO, particularly as the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine continues to unfold. The WHO has also highlighted that Ukraine's childhood vaccination coverage is generally much lower than its neighbouring countries; particularly for Polio and Hep B. Primary care colleagues can help support families to make informed choices about vaccination by making use of translation services to ensure full vaccination histories are obtained so that children can be offered the right vaccinations to bring them in line with the UK schedule.
Primary care colleagues also need to continue efforts to ensure their resident populations are fully vaccinated.
Delivery of the national childhood immunisation programme continues to be challenging for primary care colleagues and it remains a key priority. The IIUT will continue to work with our primary care colleagues to support them in delivering this vital service, to ensure every child is given the opportunity to be vaccinated against preventable infectious diseases.
Find out more about the work we do to support improving immunisation uptake.