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England misses targets for almost all preschool vaccines in 2018/19

by Isobel Sims
25 October 2019

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NHS England missed vaccination targets for nearly all preschool vaccines in 2018/19, a new report by the National Audit Office found

All but one of the vaccines that are recommended for children of preschool age had below 95% uptake in England, according to the investigation – the optimum coverage level recommended by the Department of Health and Social Care.

The report found that uptake of both doses of the MMR vaccine by five years of age was 86.4%, down from 88.3% in 2013/14. It also found that:

  • Coverage of the 5-in-1 vaccine by two years of age was 94.2%, down from 96.1% in 2013/14.
  • Coverage of the pneumococcal vaccine by 12 months of age was 92.8%, down from 94.1% in 2013/14.

It suggested that the dismantling of primary care trusts in 2013 may have contributed to the drop in vaccination uptake, as vaccination appointment call/recall requirements for GP practices were not clearly laid out by NHS England, leading to inconsistencies in practice across the country.

The report also suggested that under-served communities, including travelers, recent migrants and some religious groups, who struggle to access healthcare services in traditional ways, contributed to the falling rates.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said earlier this year that the role of ‘local immunisation coordinators’ must be strengthened in order to encourage hard-to-reach groups to vaccinate, following news that the World Health Organization had rescinded the UK’s ‘measles-free’ status.

The news comes as official figures released by NHS Digital in September showed that coverage of all 13 childhood vaccinations fell over the last year.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said earlier this month that there was a ‘strong argument’ for compulsory preschool vaccination.