More than 40% of kids haven't had both MMR jabs in parts of England
More than 40% of kids haven’t had both MMR jabs in parts of England as uptake rates plunge to decade-low in wake of pandemic amid rise of anti-vaxx myths – so use our interactive map to see how YOUR area fares
- Just 56.3 per cent of five-year-olds in Hackney, London had both doses of MMR
- Health chiefs say it is vital that uptake is at least 95 per cent to prevent outbreaks
Four in 10 kids in parts of England haven’t had both MMR jabs by the time they turn five, official statistics showed today.
Just 56.3 per cent of youngsters that age in Hackney, London, were fully-protected against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) in 2022/23.
Health chiefs say it is vital uptake is at least 95 per cent to prevent outbreaks of the highly infectious conditions, which spread easily between the unjabbed.
Nationally, the figure has fallen to 84.5 per cent — the lowest in over a decade.
Uptake rates were below the target for all 14 vital jabs offered in childhood.
Experts today blamed the rise in anti-vaxx sentiment during the Covid pandemic as contributing to the downturn, which has left tens of thousands of kids vulnerable to illnesses that can be life-threatening.
Health officials warned the downturn in vaccination is a ‘serious concern’ and urged parents to check whether their child was up to date with all their jabs.
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In England, 89.3 per cent of two-year-olds received their first dose of the MMR vaccine in the year to March 2023 (blue line), up from 89.2 per cent the previous year. Meanwhile, 88.7 per cent of two-year-olds had both doses, down from 89 per cent a year earlier
The MMR jab is first offered to children aged one, with the second dose given soon after they turn three.
Two doses offer up to 99 per cent protection against the conditions, which can lead to meningitis, hearing loss and problems during pregnancy.
NHS Digital data released today shows London is one of the least vaccinated parts of the country — taking 17 of the top 20 spots for low MMR jab uptake.
After Hackney came Camden (63.6 per cent), Enfield (64.8 per cent), Haringey (65.9 per cent) and Islington (66.3 per cent).
Outside of London, the lowest uptake rates for both doses among five year olds were logged in Liverpool (73.6 per cent), Manchester (74.5 per cent) and Birmingham (75.1 per cent).
WHAT JABS SHOULD I HAVE HAD BY AGE 18?
Vaccinations for various unpleasant and deadly diseases are given free on the NHS to children and teenagers.
Here is a list of all the jabs someone should have by the age of 18 to make sure they and others across the country are protected:
Eight weeks old
- 6-in-1 vaccine for diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), and hepatitis B.
- Pneumococcal (PCV)
- Meningitis B
12 weeks old
- Second doses of 6-in-1 and Rotavirus
16 weeks old
- Third dose of 6-in-1
- Second doses of PCV and men. B
One year old
- Hib/meningitis C
- Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR)
- Third dose of PCV and meningitis B
Two to eight years old
- Annual children’s flu vaccine
Three years, four months old
- Second dose of MMR
- 4-in-1 pre-school booster for diphtheria, tetanus, polio and whooping cough
12-13 years old (girls)
- HPV (two doses within a year)
14 years old
- 3-in-1 teenage booster for diphtheria, tetanus and polio
Source: NHS Choices
Worries about low uptake in the capital saw councils send letters to parents in recent months warning unvaccinated kids may be excluded from school for three weeks in the event of an outbreak in their classroom.
This advice was first issued by UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) chiefs in 2019 but councils have flagged it to parents amid a spike in measles cases.
Measles can infect nine in 10 unjabbed children in a classroom if just one classmate is infectious.
NHS data today showed that uptake also slumped for other jabs. Overall, 12 of the 14 childhood vaccinations saw rates decline.
The first and booster doses of the four-in-one vaccine, also known as DTaP/IPV, dropped to 93.2 per cent and 83.3 per cent among five-year-olds — the lowest figures since records began in 2009-10.
The jab protects against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough) and polio.
Uptake of the Hib/MenC booster hit 90.4 per cent among the same age group and 88.7 per cent among two-year-olds, marking the smallest number in more than a decade.
The single jab is given to one-year-old babies to reduce the risk from haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) and meningitis C — serious and potentially fatal infections.
In another record low, just 92.6 per cent of two-year-olds had their six-in-one jab, also known as DTaP/IPV/Hib/HepB.
It reduces the chance of becoming seriously ill from diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, Hib and hepatitis B.
The World Health Organization recommends that, nationally, at least 95 per cent of children have jabs for diseases that can be stopped by vaccines, in order to prevent outbreaks.
Dr Gayatri Amirthalingam, consultant medical epidemiologist at UK Health Security Agency, said the downward trend is a ‘serious concern’.
‘The diseases that these vaccines protect against, such as measles, polio and meningitis, can be life-changing and even deadly.
‘No parent wants this for their child especially when these diseases are easily preventable.
‘Please don’t put this off, check now that your children are fully up to date with all their vaccines due. Check your child’s red book and get in touch with your GP surgery if you are not sure.’
Professor Jonathan Ball, a virologist at the University of Nottingham, told MailOnline: ‘The decline in vaccination rates is very troubling, and the threat of disease outbreaks increases with every vaccine missed.’
He added: ‘We need to understand why rates aren’t as high as we need, it might be anti-vaxx sentiment, but often these things are more complex. Once we know the reasons then hopefully we can bring about changes to reverse this trend.’
NHS data for 2022/23 shows that 12 out of the 14 childhood vaccinations saw uptake decline
Just 56.3 per cent of youngsters in that age group in Hackney, London , were fully-protected against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) in the year to March 2023
Dr Doug Brown, chief executive of the British Society for Immunology, warned that England is continuing to miss key targets for childhood vaccination uptake and the low uptake of both MMR jabs among five-year-olds is ‘particularly worrying’.
He said: ‘Measles is one of the world’s most contagious diseases and cases are currently on the rise in England.
‘We must ensure that vaccination rates improve to stop the spread and give our communities the best possible protection available against this serious illness.’
How do the MMR vaccines work?
The MMR vaccine is a safe and effective combined vaccine.
It protects against three illnesses: measles, mumps and rubella.
The highly infectious conditions can easily spread between unvaccinated people.
The conditions can lead to serious problems including meningitis, hearing loss and problems during pregnancy.
Two doses of the MMR vaccine provide the best protection against measles, mumps and rubella.
The NHS advises anyone who has not had two doses of the MMR vaccine to ask their GP for a vaccination appointment.
Two doses of the jab protects around 99 per cent of people against measles and rubella, while around 88 per cent of people are protected against mumps.
Low uptake is putting communities ‘at higher risk of infection and illness’, increasing the risk of harmful diseases spreading and infecting the unjabbed, Dr Brown said.
Some vulnerable people are unable to have vaccinations such as young babies, people with compromised immune systems and cancer patients, he noted.
He called for a vaccine strategy to act as a springboard to ‘strengthen the roles of local immunisation co-ordinators, ensure services are accessible, widen community outreach and increase both investment in public health campaigns as well as engagement with parents to answer their questions on vaccines’.
Steve Russell, NHS director of vaccinations and screening, said: ‘The NHS continues to encourage and support parents and carers to ensure their children are up to date with their vaccinations to protect them against becoming seriously unwell from infectious diseases.
‘While most children are up to date with their vaccinations, there is more to do, and the NHS is running an MMR catch-up campaign to support more families in coming forward, with targeted outreach work for those identified as at high risk and communities with the lowest uptake.
‘Diseases such as measles, mumps and rubella can make children seriously ill, but they are preventable, and millions of vaccination doses are given every year to offer the best protection – so please check your child is up to date with their vaccines and contact your GP surgery to catch up with any missed doses as soon as possible.’
A DHSC spokesperson said: ‘It is vital that routine childhood vaccinations are up to date as this remains one of our best defences for public health.
‘The UK has a world-leading offer and we have run multiple catch-up campaigns to improve coverage – including a national catch-up campaign for MMR and London-specific campaigns for MMR and polio.
‘We urge parents and carers to check that their children are up to date on their vaccines and if not they should book an appointment to catch up.’
IS ANDREW WAKEFIELD’S DISCREDITED AUTISM RESEARCH TO BLAME FOR LOW MEASLES VACCINATION RATES?
In 1995, gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield published a study in The Lancet showing children who had been vaccinated against MMR were more likely to have bowel disease and autism.
He speculated that being injected with a ‘dead’ form of the measles virus via vaccination causes disruption to intestinal tissue, leading to both of the disorders.
After a 1998 paper further confirmed this finding, Wakefield said: ‘The risk of this particular syndrome [what Wakefield termed ‘autistic enterocolitis’] developing is related to the combined vaccine, the MMR, rather than the single vaccines.’
At the time, Wakefield had a patent for single measles, mumps and rubella vaccines, and was therefore accused of having a conflict of interest.
Nonetheless, MMR vaccination rates in the US and the UK plummeted, until, in 2004, the editor of The Lancet Dr Richard Horton described Wakefield’s research as ‘fundamentally flawed’, adding he was paid by a group pursuing lawsuits against vaccine manufacturers.
The Lancet formally retracted Wakefield’s research paper in 2010.
Three months later, the General Medical Council banned Wakefield from practising medicine in Britain, stating his research had shown a ‘callous disregard’ for children’s health.
On January 6 2011, The British Medical Journal published a report showing that of the 12 children included in Wakefield’s 1995 study, at most two had autistic symptoms post vaccination, rather than the eight he claimed.
At least two of the children also had developmental delays before they were vaccinated, yet Wakefield’s paper claimed they were all ‘previously normal’.
Further findings revealed none of the children had autism, non-specific colitis or symptoms within days of receiving the MMR vaccine, yet the study claimed six of the participants suffered all three.
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