Parents and carers are being urged to bring their children forward for vital pre-school vaccines this World Immunisation Week (24-30 April).
Data shows that around one in 10 children are unvaccinated and unprotected against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) by the time they start school in Lancashire and South Cumbria.
The latest published data for October to December 2022 shows that uptake of both doses of the vaccine by the age of five was below 90 per cent in more than half of local authorities in Lancashire – although uptake in Cumbria was the highest in the North West (93.3 per cent).
The routine childhood immunisation programme is designed to provide early protection against vaccine-preventable infections from eight weeks of age, with boosters offered at 12 months and before starting primary school.
Uptake of the 6-in-1 vaccination, which includes diphtheria, hepatitis B, Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type b), polio, tetanus and whooping cough (pertussis) in Lancashire and South Cumbria is just short of the national average at 91.1 per cent - and in some areas, including Blackburn with Darwen, it is only 82 per cent, meaning one in five children aged 12 months and under are not protected.
Uptake of rotavirus vaccine, which can only be given to babies up to 15 weeks old to protect them from the most common cause of gastroenteritis, is 88 per cent in the region, compared with a national average of 89.3 per cent.
At least 95 per cent uptake of the MMR vaccine is needed to provide ‘herd immunity’ – the point at which the population is protected from a disease.
Dr David Levy, medical director for Lancashire and South Cumbria Integrated Care Board, which organises health services for the region, said: “It’s really important that 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 ensure they’ve had all of their routine vaccinations so they can be fully protected from preventable illnesses.
“It’s encouraging to see that some parts of Lancashire and South Cumbria are ahead of the national average, but there is a lot of work to do to meet the target of 95 per cent in all areas.
“Diseases such as smallpox, polio and tetanus are either very rare or gone completely thanks to vaccines, however, if there are lower numbers of people having vaccines, it's possible for infectious diseases like measles to quickly spread again.”
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 surgery.
Find out more about the routine childhood immunisation programme on the NHS website.