Vaccination is a highly effective intervention to prevent disease. Globally, vaccination prevents around 2-3 million deaths per year. In the UK, vaccines are routinely offered against 18 infections in childhood and adolescence—and some of these diseases have now become very uncommon.
While the uptake of most vaccines is high, there are significant pockets of under-vaccination in some geographical areas and within some vulnerable groups. This includes many children and young people with long-term conditions.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to missed opportunities for routine vaccinations due in part to parental concerns about visiting GP surgeries, and prolonged school closures. Children receive many of their vaccines through schools and could continue to miss out if schools are not fully reopened or are again forced to close.
RCPCH's Immunisation Lead, Professor Helen Bedford, says: “All agencies should prioritise routine vaccinations to address the large number of children and young people who missed out during the COVID-19 pandemic. They need to catch up and be protected from preventable infections.
“We also strongly encourage parents of children aged six months and older with health conditions, as well as 2-11-year-olds who are included in the routine programme, to have their child immunised against flu.
“Children and young people are largely spared the worst effects of COVID-19. That’s not true of the influenza virus— young children can become very ill and spread the flu to others. As we head into a challenging winter, we should do all that we can to protect children, each other, and the NHS.”
In its statement, the College outlines a number of recommendations, including:
- The UK Government should publish its overdue vaccination strategy.
- The NHS should fully implement national guidance, e.g. NICE recommendations.
- Health providers should consider ‘on the spot’ vaccinations to those not up-to-date.
- Health professionals should be aware of the groups most at risk of low uptake.
The College will also conduct activity to promote immunisations, including:
- Encouraging members to ensure the public is given full and accurate information.
- Encouraging members to give greater consideration to opportunistic vaccination.
- Continuing to publish its Vaccines in Practice online learning.
- Continuing to support the Immunisation e-Learning programme.
- Continuing to collaborate with other organisations to promote vaccination.