Parents are being urged to check that their children’s vaccinations are up to date to not only protect them from preventable diseases but also avoid putting unnecessary pressure on the NHS in years to come.
The Local Government Association (LGA) said a “national effort” to vaccinate children and young people will help to relieve long-term pressures on the health service, while NHS England’s national director of primary care described it as “crucial that your children get their jabs as normal” where possible.
The results of a poll published at the end of June showed just 27% of parents of young children said they would feel comfortable taking their child to a medical centre such as a GP surgery for vaccinations – down from 91% pre-pandemic.
The LGA said many children and young people will have missed out on routine vaccinations due to the lockdown and that failing to ensure youngsters are vaccinated now could lead to avoidable consequences in the long term.
The organisation, which represents councils in England and Wales, said it is calling on the Government to set out its plan to ensure children get the necessary vaccinations without overwhelming settings such as GP surgeries, clinics and schools.
It added that local authorities should be given the “necessary funding” to allow their workforces to cope with demand.
Judith Blake, chairwoman of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said that, as long as people or members of their household are not displaying coronavirus symptoms or self-isolating, “vaccinations should happen as normal”.
“The national immunisation programme is highly successful in reducing the number of serious and life-threatening diseases such as whooping cough, scarlet fever and measles,” she said.
“High vaccine uptake can prevent a resurgence of these infections, which can cause harm and put unnecessary added pressure on the NHS.
“We really do encourage parents to check if their child needs any vaccinations to make sure they are properly protected.”
Dr Nikki Kanani, a GP and NHS England national director of primary care, said: “Vaccines provide vital protection against life-threatening diseases and, as a mum and a GP, I want to remind other parents out there that getting your kids their vaccination is not only safe, but essential.
“Despite the ongoing pressure brought by the Covid-19 pandemic, MMR and other vaccination appointments are still going ahead safely – and so as long as you or your family members are not displaying symptoms of coronavirus, or self-isolating, it is crucial that your children get their jabs as normal.”
Uptake of routine vaccinations for infants remains stable according to monthly reporting last published in July, a spokesman for Public Health Wales said, but he added that it is too early to assess the impact of the pandemic on the uptake of school-age immunisations.
He said: “Our monitoring suggests that the enhanced safety measures put in place in Wales have maintained public trust, with parents and carers continuing to bring their pre-school children to immunisation appointments.
“While it remains too early to assess the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the uptake of school-age immunisation programmes such as MenACWY and HPV using routine reporting, we are clear that the priority for schools during the autumn term will be the children’s flu immunisation, with teenage school immunisation programmes likely to follow after Christmas.
“The overriding message is that it is essential that members of the public, including infants and school-age children, continue to attend their planned immunisation sessions.”
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