The Health and Social Care Committee has produced a report on vaccinations as part of its wider inquiry on prevention in health and social care. The report notes RCPCH’s concern on declining vaccination rates in children and lays out a number of recommendations, including an NHS England integrated vaccination and immunisation strategy which should have:
- a strong focus on the action that is needed to tackle the practical challenges that limit access to vaccination;
- sets out how to make best use of the wide range of healthcare professionals able to administer vaccinations;
- empowers local leaders to pursue ways of addressing uptake in their own areas; and
- sets out guidance and examples of best practice around how voices other than NHS England can be used to communicate important messaging about vaccination programmes
The committee also recommended a government consultation on whether to amend the Human Medicines Regulations 2012 to give medical and nursing students, and recently retired staff, a greater role in routine immunisation delivery.
In response to the report, RCPCH Officer for Health Improvement, Dr Helen Stewart, said:
Vaccinations are one of the most powerful tools we have in terms of ill health prevention. They are lifesaving and have transformed the world we currently live in and we know that prevention is key to reducing NHS pressures. This is why it’s so concerning that not one vaccination target set by the WHO has been met in England this year, and we note that uptake is down across all the nations of the UK. It’s even more worrying to note the significant variation in vaccination rates among different ethnic groups and in areas of social deprivation, which is currently widening already prevalent health inequalities.
Recently we have seen the UKHSA warn against a measles resurgence in London if action is not taken and a subsequent measles break out in a London school. It’s clear that the diseases that these vital vaccines prevent are dangerous and have not disappeared. We need to get a handle on infectious diseases such as measles ahead of winter if we have any chance of getting our health services back where they need to be.
We know that continued lower vaccine uptake has allowed these dangerous diseases to start to re-emerge and that action is needed now. We’re very pleased to see this report from the health and social care committee and welcome a number of its recommendations. It is absolutely critical that government now publishes the long overdue vaccination strategy alongside a new, cross-departmental child health strategy backed up by funding, and support for the wider workforce who would deliver this.