A new report from NHS Digital shows that a decreasing number of children are being vaccinated against potentially deadly or life-altering diseases such as tetanus, diphtheria and polio.
Coverage has declined for nine of the 12 routine childhood vaccinations measured at age 12 months, 24 months or five years in England, according to the data.
Coverage for the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine for children reaching their second birthday fell to 91.2% in England in 2017/18 compared to 91.6% in 2016/17, marking the fourth consecutive year that MMR coverage has decreased, and falling well below the World Health Organisation’s 95% coverage target.
The figures show that the North East of England had the highest level of coverage at 94.5%, slipping from the 94.9% recorded a year ago, while London had the lowest level at 85.1%, remaining level with that for 2016/17.
Nationwide, MMR coverage for children reaching their fifth birthday fell from 95.0% in 2016/17 to 94.9% in 2017/18.
NHS Digital’s report shows coverage for the 5-in-1 vaccine at 12 months has fallen from 94.7% in 2012/13 to 93.1% for the current year, marking the fifth successive year coverage for the vaccine for diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, polio and Hib disease has fallen in children aged 12 months.
The Rotavirus vaccine was the only one showing an increase in coverage, from 89.6% in 2016/17 to 90.1% in 2017/18.
"Although the UK has high uptake rates for the routine vaccinations, excluding influenza, they are not high enough to maintain herd immunity,” commented Dr David Elliman, immunisation expert for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH).
“The consistent fall in uptake over a number of years is worrying. It may be due to a number of factors. Difficulties with data collection, particularly in London, may be a factor. General Practice, where most of the preschool immunisations are given, is under immense pressure and there is a shortage of practice nurses who actually give the vaccines.
“There is no evidence, in the UK, of any increase of concerns about vaccination. Communication between IT systems in NHS, use of reminders and staffing of General Practice should be addressed."