Parents urged to make sure children are fully vaccinated against childhood illnesses

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NHS vaccination teams in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland (LLR) are urging families to bring their children forward for vital pre-school vaccines during World Immunisation Week (24-30 April), as one in 10 children in England are not up to date with their measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccines by the time they start school.

In Leicester, fewer than 80% of children have had both their MMR vaccines by the age of 5. This is well below the 95% World Health Organisation (WHO) target needed to provide ‘herd immunity’ – the point at which the population is protected from measles.

The WHO has predicted a rise in measles cases across Europe in 2023, making it more important than ever to make sure that children are fully protected.

Dr Fahreen Dhanji, GP and clinical lead for immunisations with the LLR Integrated Care Board, said: “Measles can make a child seriously unwell and can lead to pneumonia, with rare long-lasting conditions such as blindness and brain damage. To become fully protected, children need two doses of the MMR vaccine, the first when they turn one year old and the second at 3 years 4 months.

“The MMR vaccination is proven to be very effective and safe in protecting children against these highly infectious conditions. Over 20 million cases of measles have been prevented since the start of measles vaccination in the UK. Over 4,500 lives have been saved as a result.”

Disruption and lockdowns during the Covid-19 pandemic meant that many children missed out on routine vaccines. The theme for World Immunisation Week this year is ‘the big catch-up’ and parents are encouraged to get their children up to date with their routine vaccinations.

Dr Dhanji said: “It’s really important that babies and children have vaccinations as soon as they are offered, to make sure they are protected from the earliest possible age and we recommend that parents whose children are due to start school this September make sure they’ve had all of their routine vaccinations so they can be fully protected from preventable illnesses.”

The routine childhood immunisation programme is designed to provide early protection against vaccine-preventable infections from 8 weeks of age, with boosters offered at 12 months and before starting primary school.

Parents or carers whose child has missed their first or second dose of the MMR vaccine should contact their GP practice to book an appointment. Whilst booking their child’s MMR vaccine, they should also check if their child is due for other vaccinations, as they may be able to have them at the same time.

If parents and carers are unsure if their child is up to date with vaccinations, they can check their Red Book (personal child health record) or speak to their GP practice.

Find out more about the routine childhood immunisation programme on the NHS website: NHS vaccinations and when to have them – NHS (www.nhs.uk)

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