Experts warn of alarming drop in childhood vaccination rates in England

Cases of mumps reach their highest level in 10 years.
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  • Health experts have issued warnings following an alarming drop in up-take of all routine childhood vaccinations across England.

    There has been marked decline in vaccine rates against 13 different diseases, which could leave many thousands of children vulnerable to potentially fatal illnesses. This comes after the UK lost its measles-free status last year, because of the fall in rates of MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) immunisation.

    Measles had been officially eradicated in the UK, but the World Health Organization recently withdrew its measles-free status because of the falling vaccination rate. Now, health officials are also urging people not to miss their second MMR vaccine as cases of mumps reach their highest level in 10 years, the BBC reports.

    Read more: Why has the UK lost ‘measles-free’ status – and should vaccines be compulsory?

    Recent figures from the NHS have shown a loss of confidence for vaccinations more generally.

    There has been a marked decline in vaccination rates in diseases including whooping cough (pertussis), diphtheria and meningitis in children aged 12 months, 24 months and five years.

    Find out more: Vaccinations and MMR

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    Coverage of 95% of the population is deemed necessary to prevent outbreaks, but vaccination among children aged 24 months in England has dropped from 91.2% in 2017-18 to 90.3% in 2018-19. The rate has also gone down each year for the last five years.

    It is thought that the drop in confidence in vaccinations are a result of the circulation of scare stories, especially on social media platforms, where, for example, the widely discredited claims that the MMR vaccine is linked to autism are circulated.

    Read more: Whooping cough: symptoms and treatment in adults and in babies

    Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at Public Health England, said to the BBC, “Although these changes are small proportions, these are big drops in terms of public health.

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    “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.”

    What do you think of the declining vaccination rates?