Up to 10,000 of region's children not up to date with MMR vaccine
Health officials are warning that up to 10,000 of the region's five-year-olds are not fully immunised against MMR.
Public Health England (PHE) is urging parents of primary school starters urged to check their children's immunisation records, saying that thousands may not be fully up-to-date with the 4-in-1 pre-school booster.
The estimates, released as part of PHE’s Value of Vaccines campaign, show that some four and five-year-olds are starting school at risk of contracting serious diseases compared to the majority of their classmates.
The figures have prompted a call for parents to check their child’s 'Red Book' to ensure they are up-to-date with scheduled immunisations.
It comes as the World Health Organisation confirmed that Britain has lost its 'measles free' status – only two years after it declared the country free of the highly infections disease.
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.
Dr Ashis Banerjee, Screening and Immunisation Lead in Public Health England West Midlands, said they were worried at the number of children not up to date with their vaccines.
He said: “It’s a real concern that so many young children in our region could be starting school without the full protection that the NHS childhood immunisation programme offers for free.
"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’ve seen outbreaks of this disease in the West Midlands in the past two years and 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 vast majority of those affected are not fully immunised and vaccine preventable diseases spread more easily in schools. It’s crucial that children have maximum protection as they begin to mix with other children at the start of their school journey.
“We often think that these diseases are confined to the past, but the World Health Organization has recently confirmed that measles is no longer eliminated in England. Whilst tetanus and polio are still rare thanks to the success of the NHS childhood immunisation programme, over the past few years we’ve also seen cases of whooping cough and diphtheria in school-aged children.”
Caroline Hatton, service delivery group manager, (children, young people and families) with Shropshire Community Health NHS Trust, said: “As a parent, you have the power to protect your children against serious or potentially fatal diseases like measles, cancers caused by HPV, and whooping cough.
"When children are not vaccinated, they are at increased risk and can spread diseases to others in their classrooms and community – including babies who are too young to be fully vaccinated, and people with weakened immune systems or other health conditions. Simply put, vaccines are safe and effective, and save lives.
"Vaccinations are available via your GP and the school age immunisation service. Should your child have missed a previous opportunity it is not too late to catch up, further catch up programmes are being planned particularly for the MMR and will be publicised later this year.”
People can check if their child has received all their vaccines on schedule, by visiting nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/nhs-vaccinations-and-when-to-have-them and referring to their child’s Red Book.
If in any doubt, they can contact their GP practice.