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HSC Committee: Government ignored childhood vaccine delivery concerns

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HSC Committee: Government ignored childhood vaccine delivery concerns

By Neil Trainis

The Health and Social Care Committee has accused the government of ignoring its recommendation to give medical and nursing students and recently retired staff “a greater role” in delivering childhood vaccinations amid concerns not enough children in England are being immunised against vaccine-preventable diseases.

In its response to a report in July by the Committee, which warned a more flexible approach to vaccine delivery was needed in England given none of the childhood immunisation programmes in 2021-22 met the World Health Organisation’s recommendation that at least 95 per cent of children are immunised, the government did not go into detail about how it would address the problem.

Drawing on NHS data, the Committee said it was concerned that vaccine coverage fell in 13 out of 14 routine programmes for children up to five years-old while immunisation rates had dropped in recent years.

According to NHS Digital, coverage for the 5-in-1 jab for children at five years which offers protection from diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio and bacterial infections, fell from 95.2 per cent in 2020-21 to 94.4 per cent in 2021-22.

The number of babies at 24 months who received a first dose of the MMR vaccine fell from 90.3 per cent in 2020-21 to 89.2 per cent in 2021-22 while pneumococcal vaccine coverage at 12 months was 93.8 per cent during the same year.

In its response published last week, the government pointed to a consultation it launched in August on proposals to amend the Human Medicines Regulations 2012 to continue using an “expanded workforce,” including medicine and nursing students and retired professionals, to deliver Covid and flu vaccinations as they did during the pandemic. However, although the government said it was exploring “options for a longer-term solution” to allow an expanded workforce “to deliver national vaccine campaigns,” it did not specifically say that included childhood immunisations.

The Committee’s chair Steve Brine said he was “extremely disappointed” the government had “failed to respond directly to our calls for urgent action to tackle declining rates in childhood immunisations.”

“Without a more flexible approach to how they are delivered, the great success story of vaccination will flounder, as will the UK’s position as a global leader,” he said, pointing to the UK Health Security Agency’s warning in July that a measles outbreak of between 40,000 and 160,000 cases could occur in London if MMR vaccines rates remained low.

Brine urged the government to produce an integrated vaccination and immunisation strategy which it promised to publish a year ago. “Its publication remains vital if targets for routine vaccinations among children are to be met,” he said.

In its report in July, the Committee said the strategy must “set out how to make best use of the wide range of healthcare professionals able to administer vaccinations.” The government said it will publish its strategy “later in 2023.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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