Urgent action to boost the number of children and young people receiving life-saving vaccinations will be set out by the Prime Minister today.
Boris Johnson will visit a hospital in the South West (we are not told which one) and put forward a number of measures designed to improve vaccination rates, including for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR).
While confidence in the UK’s world-leading vaccination programme remains high – with uptake exceeding 90% for most childhood immunisations – there has been a small but steady decline in coverage in recent years.
It means that the UK has lost its ‘measles-free’ status with the World Health Organisation (WHO) – three years after the virus was eliminated in the country. The WHO has stated that in the first six months of 2019 reported measles cases globally are almost three times as many as the same time last year. Measles is now endemic in countries including France, Germany and Italy.
The PM has now called for health leaders to renew their efforts to meet 95% for both doses of MMR. Currently, just 87% of children are getting their second dose of the jab, which has likely contributed to the spread of measles.
Action to achieve this includes:
- NHS England writing to GPs urging them to promote ‘catch up’ vaccination programmes for MMR for 10-11-year-olds, as well as all those 5-25-year-olds who have not had two doses of the jab;
- Strengthening the role of local immunisation coordinators – healthcare professionals that promote vaccines particularly with hard-to-reach families. This includes supporting areas with low uptake and tailoring specific local interventions to under-vaccinated communities;
- Addressing parents’ concerns about vaccines by updating the advice on NHS.uk specifically to address misleading information about the dangers of vaccines, by giving people NHS-approved, evidence-based and trusted advice on vaccines including through a new website;
- Calling a summit of social media companies to discuss how they can play their part in promoting accurate information about vaccination; and
- The Department for Health and Social Care – working with Public Health England and NHS England – delivering a comprehensive strategy to address the issue in the Autumn.
Ahead of the hospital visit, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:
After a period of progress where we were once able to declare Britain measles free, we’ve now seen hundreds of cases of measles in the UK this year. One case of this horrible disease is too many, and I am determined to step up our efforts to tackle its spread.
This is a global challenge and there’s a number of reasons why people don’t get themselves or their children the vaccines they need, but we need decisive action across our health service and society to make sure communities are properly immunised.
From reassuring parents about the safety of vaccines, to making sure people are attending follow-up appointments, we can and must do more to halt the spread of infectious, treatable diseases in modern-day Britain.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said:
It’s easy to forget how devastating measles can be precisely because vaccines are so effective at preventing it in the first place.
With this strategy, the whole health system will come together to renew focus on vaccinations – especially for our children – and this time we will eliminate measles for good.
The Prime Minister’s visit to the South West is part of a series of visits to hospitals he is taking. He will meet doctors and nurses, hearing directly from them about what support they think the NHS needs so it can continue to be the best healthcare service in the world.