Childhood immunisation campaign

Public health bosses back new campaign to drive up childhood vaccinations

Public health bosses in Lancashire are urging families to protect their children against serious diseases that are re-emerging in England and the North West.

The call's been made as the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) launches a new national campaign to drive up childhood vaccinations amid growing concerns over falling uptake.

The campaign went live this week with a powerful video advert told from the perspective of children and in their voices. “Our generation’s risk of illnesses like measles and whooping cough is rising” they tell their parents and carers looking straight into camera - “If we’re not vaccinated, we’re not protected.”

It comes as the latest weekly update on measles cases in England shows there have been another 69 cases in the past week, bringing the total number of laboratory confirmed measles cases reported since 1 October 2023 to 650.

In the 4 weeks since 29 January 2024, there have been 183 newly confirmed cases, with the highest number of cases reported from the West Midlands 43% (79/183). During this period all regions have had confirmed cases, 19% of cases have been (34/183) in the North West, 14% (26/183) in London, 10% (18/183) in the East Midlands and 8% (15/183) in Yorkshire and The Humber.

County Councillor Michael Green, cabinet member for Health and Wellbeing at Lancashire County Council, said: "Vaccines are our best line of defence against diseases like measles and help stop outbreaks occurring in the community.

"We are calling on all parents and guardians to make sure their children are up to date with their 2 MMR doses.

"If anyone has missed one or both doses of the MMR vaccine, contact your GP practice to book an appointment."

The World Health Organization recently repeated their warning on the growing measles threat due to sub-optimal vaccination rates well below the 95% target, highlighting that more than half the world faces high measles risk. This includes Europe, where it warns of the high probability of importation from areas experiencing high circulation and the fact that the seasonal peak of the virus could be seen in the coming months.

Uptake levels of childhood vaccines offered through the routine NHS vaccination programme in England have been falling over the past decade across all vaccines, including whooping cough, measles, mumps and rubella, polio, meningitis and diphtheria - with England no longer having the levels of population immunity recommended by WHO that is needed to prevent outbreaks. Crucially, lower vaccine uptake within communities is directly linked to wider health inequalities.

To counter this decline, the UKHSA is co-ordinating its national marketing campaign with a NHS operational MMR catch up campaign. Areas with low uptake will be a focus for support and parents of children aged from six to 11 years will be contacted directly and urged to make an appointment with their child’s GP practice for any missed MMR vaccines.

Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, Director of Public Health, Lancashire County Council, said: "Childhood infections like measles and whooping cough are rising across England and if your child isn’t vaccinated, they’re not protected.

"Childhood vaccinations are safe and prevent more than 5,000 deaths and more than 100,000 hospital admissions each year in England.

"All medicines can cause side effects, but all health authorities around the world agree that immunisation is the safest way to protect our children’s health.

"If you're not sure if your child is fully up to date with their vaccinations, check their red book or speak to your GP."

Dr Jenny Harries, CEO of the UKHSA said: “We need an urgent reversal of the decline in the uptake of childhood vaccinations to protect our communities. Through this campaign we are particularly appealing to parents to check their children’s vaccination status and book appointments if their children have missed any immunisations.

"The ongoing measles outbreak we are seeing is a reminder of the very present threat.

“While the majority of the country is protected, there are still high numbers of children in some areas that continue to be unprotected from preventable diseases. It is not just their own health that can suffer, but other unvaccinated people around them such as school friends, family and those in their community could also experience serious infections.

“Unless uptake improves we will start to see the diseases that these vaccines protect against re-emerging and causing more serious illness.”

Notes to editors

For the full routine NHS Childhood vaccination timetable visit:

Cover of vaccination evaluated rapidly (COVER) programme 2023 to 2024: UK quarterly data and commentary on uptake/coverage achieved by the UK childhood immunisation programme:

Quarterly vaccination coverage statistics for children aged up to 5 years in the UK (COVER programme): July to Sept 2023