NHS ramps up drive to increase uptake of lifesaving vaccines

More lifesaving vaccines should be provided in convenient locations for parents to drive uptake, a new NHS review says today.

The findings are being published amid a reduction in children getting vaccinated, with analysis showing that one in seven children aged five had not had both doses of essential measles jabs.

Health leaders will also look at how payments to GPs will ensure they vaccinate as many children and young people as possible against MMR.

The new review of immunisations in general practice says that the introduction of new ‘primary care networks’ nationwide – groups of GP surgeries joining up to help their communities – could mean more access to evening and weekend appointments, to offer more convenient access for parents.

Vaccines are the best chance of avoiding often serious illnesses including measles, mumps, meningitis.

Health professionals have warned that so-called vaccine complacency and hesitancy means people are missing out on vital protection, with coverage dropping in each of the past five years, below the important recommended level of 95%.

Vaccination rates are at 91.2% for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR).

There is also evidence that parents are influenced by negative messages about vaccines on social media, with an independent report from the Royal Society of Public Health showing two in five parents saying they are often or sometimes exposed to these messages online.

Measures to be taken forward for discussion include:

  • Introducing a consistent way of reminding people to attend vaccination appointments;
  • Ensuring that IT systems can alert staff to people who need to be vaccinated in the community;
  • Broadening access to training for healthcare professionals;
  • Continuing to promote information on vaccine safety and effectiveness to tackle concerns about misinformation.

Professor Stephen Powis, NHS medical director said: “One of the most effective, cheap and essential tools for keeping us all safe is a simple, free jab – it can save the life of your child.

“Looking at ways to expand access to appointments will make it even easier for parents to protect their children and with the NHS playing its part, it is vital that everyone takes up this life saving opportunity and isn’t swayed by the dangerous marketing of false information by anti-vaxxers.”

The NHS in England will now bring together GP groups and other health professionals to agree collective action to reverse falling vaccination rates, which have dropped in each of the past five years.