Concern at drop in uptake of childhood meningitis vaccines

26th September 2019

New figures released today show that coverage rates for all 13 routine childhood vaccinations given to children under 5 – including meningitis vaccinations – have fallen over the last year

Meningitis Now concerned about childhood vaccine decline

NHS Digital’s Childhood Vaccination Coverage Statistics contains information on vaccinations measured at the ages of 12 months, 24 months and 5 years. It shows decreases in coverage ranging from 0.2 to 1.0 percentage points between 2017-18 and 2018-19.

Speaking to the BBC about the fall, Public Health England Head of Immunisations, Dr Mary Ramsay, said while the percentage changes may seem small the risk should not be underestimated.

"These are big drops in terms of public health. The trend is concerning,” she said.                               

"No parent should be in any doubt of the devastating impact of these diseases."

"It's vital that everyone recognises the value of vaccines and takes up this lifesaving offer."

This message was reinforced by our chief executive Dr Tom Nutt. “Vaccines save lives” he said.

“We are deeply concerned about the ongoing downward trend in childhood vaccinations, particularly in the uptake of vaccines that protect against meningitis. The drop in the MenB vaccine among newborns is particularly concerning, as this lifesaving vaccine was only introduced in 2015, after prolonged campaigning by parents. Likewise, the decline in MenC uptake, also down 0.5%, indicates a worrying trend amongst new parents not to protect their babies against a disease that can kill in a matter of hours."

Vaccines save lives

“Parents really do need to understand the risk they are taking with their children's lives when they choose not to get them vaccinated and wake up to the simple fact that vaccines save lives. They also need to know that being vaccinated makes a valuable contribution to the safety and wellbeing of other children by building immunity in the communities where they live."

"I would urge parents with young children who have concerns around issues of vaccine safety to talk with their GP and make their decisions based on sound scientific fact and not social media propaganda or hearsay."

The fall is attributed by some to growing influence of the anti-vaccination lobby on social media and there have been calls for the government to consider making vaccination compulsory. 

The report includes coverage data for the MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella), pneumococcal disease (PCV), rotavirus, meningococcal group B (MenB), Hib booster and meningococcal group C vaccine (Hib/MenC) and children’s flu vaccines, amongst other diseases.

This year’s report also includes data on the MenB booster vaccine as a National Statistic for the first time, covering a complete year of data. England coverage at the age of 24 months was 87.8% in 2018-19.

List of vaccinations, ages at which coverage is measured and coverage for past three years:

Meningitis Now - list of vaccines available

Read the full report of Childhood Vaccination Coverage Statistics here.

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