As schools reopen in September, parents and carers are being urged to check their children have had all their pre-school vaccinations to protect them from serious diseases and help prevent outbreaks. While the majority of parents in the South West do ensure their child is fully vaccinated, some children starting school are either missing key doses or have not been vaccinated at all.
Early childhood vaccinations are vitally important as they help to build immunity, protecting against a host of serious diseases such as some strains of meningitis, diphtheria, measles, mumps, rubella and whooping cough.
Successful vaccination programmes have helped to make such diseases much rarer, but they are still in circulation and if vaccination levels fall, the likelihood of an outbreak is increased.
Achieving at least 90% coverage in the local population is the minimum target to prevent infections spreading. Vaccine uptake in the South West is generally high but levels of the pre-school dose fall slightly short at 89.4% equating to approximately one in eleven children missing out on the vital booster to protect against diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus and polio.
It is particularly important that a child is up to date with their vaccinations before they start school, as this is when they come into contact with many more potential sources of infection.
GP Surgeries and clinics have introduced a range of safety measures and have come up with some innovative ways to protect those attending appointments and all scheduled vaccinations should go ahead as normal.
Matthew Dominey, Public Health Consultant at Public Health England, said:
“Vaccinations protect your child and the wider population from serious diseases, and it is vital that they complete all the doses to build up the right levels of protection, particularly before they go to school.
“We know that for busy parents it can be easy to lose track of which vaccinations your child has had, but it is not too late – speak to your GP surgery to check if your child is up-to-date and protected.”
Hayley Ware, a mother from Wiltshire and Public Health Manager said:
“My daughter turned one in April, and I took her for her second lot of immunisations at her registered practice. I was impressed by the organisation, confidence of staff, and all the safety measures put in place.
It was a very positive experience, and I would encourage all parents and carers to ensure that their child received these important vaccinations.”
Don’t forget, children aged two and three will be able to receive their free flu vaccination from the GP this autumn. Children in reception through to year seven will receive their free flu vaccine at school.