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Ensure that all children get the best start in life, starting with vaccine protection

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The pandemic has reminded us how brilliant our scientists are and how effective the NHS is in running life-saving vaccination programs.

I welcome the Advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI) that young people ages 16 and 17 are routinely offered the COVID-19 vaccine. We should also be proud and very grateful that, unlike in many parts of the world, all children in the UK can receive free vaccinations to protect them against a host of other serious diseases, from measles to polio.

Since the measles vaccine was first introduced in 1968, it is estimated to have prevented more than 20 million cases and 4,500 deaths in the UK alone.

But in recent years, the data shows a decrease in the number of children who receive their blows.

This is very concerning because it means that more children are potentially vulnerable to serious diseases, increasing the possibility of outbreaks.

The most recent data shows that as of March 2020, approximately 37,500 children did not receive a dose of MMR at age 5, and another 53,500 did not receive a second dose.

There has also been a decrease in the number of children receiving their 3-dose cycle of the hexavalent vaccine at 6 months of age, which protects against six serious diseases, including tetanus, diphtheria, and hepatitis B.

Our latest surveillance suggests that each year there are about 40,000 unprotected children on their 3-dose cycle by the time they reach 6 months of age.

These declines in vaccine uptake began before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Exactly why this happened is not entirely clear and there will be a number of factors at play, including access to health services. However, some parents will simply not be aware of the vaccinations their child is entitled to.

In addition to these challenges, confinement restrictions have led to a further decline. This despite the fact that GP clinics remain open at all times and work hard to provide this vital service.

These diseases can still affect children and cause serious illness. It is absolutely vital that parents bring their children to all of their routine vaccination appointments and catch up on any missed shots. Immunizations can be rescheduled and all children still have the right to receive their vaccination, even if they have missed an appointment.

Other infectious diseases beyond COVID-19 have not gone away and it is essential that we maintain as much uptake as possible to prevent a resurgence of serious and sometimes life-threatening diseases, particularly as restrictions are lifted, we socialize more together and people returns to more normal forms. of life.

Our necessary response to COVID-19 and the disruption of children’s education and social development has had a devastating impact on young people.

We can start to correct some of that by making sure that no child is left behind in our protection of their health and that every child has the best start in life, and that starts with protecting the vaccine against these nasty diseases and sometimes , serious.

All children who did not receive their routine vaccinations during the COVID-19 pandemic remain eligible for their vaccinations. Parents can talk to their GP to find out about missed shots.

As Executive Director of the UK Health Security Agency, I can assure you that we will work flat out with the NHS to lead our routine and seasonal vaccination programs back and forth, to prevent outbreaks of serious disease and save lives.

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