Uptake of most routine childhood vaccinations at one and two years decreased slightly in 2015-16 for the third consecutive year, according to latest figures on national coverage in England.
National coverage of measles, mumps and rubella as measured at two years, decreased slightly in 2015-16 for the second consecutive year, following a year on year increase since 2007-08.
“The news that overall vaccination rates in England have again decreased is extremely worrying”
Additionally, national coverage figures reported for the diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis and polio booster as measured at five years showed a decrease in 2015-16 for the third year in a row.
According to a report published by NHS Digital, in 2015-16, 93.6% of children reaching their first birthday had completed their primary immunisation courses against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis, polio and haemophilus influenzae type b.
This compares with 94.2% for DTaP/IPV/Hib in 2014-15 and 94.3% in 2013-14, noted the report.
Meanwhile, coverage of the first dose of MMR for children reaching their second birthday decreased to 91.9% in 2015-16.
This continues a “downward trend” in recent years, warned the report. Coverage was 92.3% in 2014-15 and 92.7% in 2013-14.
National coverage of the first dose of the MMR vaccine for children aged five years old was at a record high of 94.8% in 2015-16. The World Health Organization recommends a target of 95%.
The report stated: “In 2015-16, vaccination coverage in England was below that of other UK countries for all routine childhood vaccines measured at one, two and five years.”
Fall in uptake for most routine vaccination
Levels of immunisation for all routine childhood vaccinations as measured at one, two and five years were highest in the North East and lowest in London.
Professor Peter Openshaw, president of the British Society for Immunology, described the decreasing trend in overall vaccination rates as “extremely worrying”.
“We are behind many countries in our vaccine uptake, exposing our children to risks of potentially harmful and even fatal diseases,” he noted.
“It is crucial that local authorities and the NHS take joint action to reverse this trend,” he said. “There needs to be sufficient funding and skills to be able to both communicate the benefits of vaccination and to deliver vaccines efficiently and effectively to the people who need them.”