Parents of primary school starters are being urged to check their kids’ immunisation records after it was revealed that one in seven five-year-olds may not be fully up to date with some routine immunisations, with the figure rising to around one in four children in London.
The ‘worrying’ estimates from Public Health England’s (PHE) Value of Vaccines campaign showed that some four and five year olds are starting school at unnecessary risk of serious diseases compared to the majority of their classmates, as hundreds of thousands of parents across England prepare their children to start primary school in the next few weeks.
The Department of Health and Social care has reminded the public that in the UK, dose one of the MMR vaccine, which protects against Measles, Mumps and Rubella, is usually given to infants at around 12 months of age. A second dose is given before school, usually at three years and four months of age, to ensure best protection. Two doses of MMR in a lifetime are needed for a person to be considered fully protected. The 4-in-1 pre-school booster is also usually offered at three years and four months of age and protects against diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus and polio.
PHE also estimated that over 30,000 (around one in nineteen) five-year-olds may still need to receive their first dose of MMR, leaving them significantly more at risk compared to pupils who are fully vaccinated and around 90,000 (or one in seven) five-year-olds in England may still need to receive their second dose of MMR vaccine. Almost 30,000 of these children are in London, meaning that around one in four primary school starters in the capital don’t have the full protection that the MMR vaccine offers.
Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation at PHE noted that the figures are a “concern”, before going on to express worry that many children “could be starting school without the full protection that the NHS childhood immunisation programme offers for free.”
She continued, “We know that parents want the best protection for their children and so many may be unaware that their child is not up-to-date. We’re urging all parents of primary school starters to check their child’s Red Book now to make sure there is a record of two MMR doses and the 4-in-1 booster vaccine. If not, parents should contact their GP practice to arrange any further vaccinations that are needed.
We’re particularly concerned about children being at greater risk of measles. We’re continuing to see outbreaks of the disease occurring in communities across the country, many linked to visiting European countries over the summer holidays.”
The lack of immunisation leaves children at high risk of measles at a time when outbreaks of the disease are occurring across the country.