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UKHSA to launch campaign to ‘urgently’ reverse childhood vaccination decline

UKHSA to launch campaign to ‘urgently’ reverse childhood vaccination decline
By Anna Colivicchi
1 March 2024

A new campaign will be launched next week by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) in a bid to drive up childhood vaccinations across England.

The organisation has issued an ‘urgent call to action’ to parents to catch up on their children’s missed vaccinations.

It said that uptake levels of childhood vaccines offered through the routine NHS vaccination programme in England ‘have been falling over the past decade across all vaccines’ with England no longer having the levels of population immunity recommended by the World Health Organization that is needed to prevent outbreaks.

UKHSA is co-ordinating the campaign, which will launch on Monday with ads on TV, radio and social media, with an NHS operational MMR catch-up campaign to counter this decline.

Areas with low uptake ‘will be a focus for support’, and parents of children aged from six to 11 years will be contacted directly and urged to make an appointment with their child’s GP practice for any missed MMR vaccines.

The campaign comes as the latest weekly update on measles cases in England shows there have been another 69 cases in the past week, bringing the total number of laboratory confirmed measles cases reported since 1 October last year to 650.

In the four weeks since 29 January, there have been 183 newly confirmed cases, with the highest number of cases reported from the West Midlands (43%).

UKHSA chief executive Professor Dame Jenny Harries 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.’

As part of a briefing on the campaign, UKHSA director of public health programmes Dr Mary Ramsay said that general practice ‘has been crucial to get the rates that we have now’.

However, the national vaccination strategy, outlined at the end of last year, signalled a possible end to the current GP practice enhanced services and QOF targets, with ICBs set to take over population-level management and NHS England launching 12 ‘demonstrator sites’ to test new models for delivering vaccinations, including health visitors taking on catch-up jabs for children.

In relation to the demonstrator sites, Dr Ramsay said that ‘clearly the capacity in general practice has been under pressure’ and that NHS England ‘is looking at ways of supplementing that by bringing in other professionals’.

She said: ‘I would say it’s really important that any of this is done as part of partnerships so that they can look at issues like practice income.

‘The last thing we want is for general practice to not be able to deliver the programme to the bulk of children because these approaches are going to be supplemental, they are not going to replace general practice – at least not in the short term.’

A version of this story was first published on our sister title Pulse.

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