Fewer children in the UK are immune to deadly diseases due to ‘vaccination fatigue’ from the Covid vaccination campaign and busy GPs, government advisers have warned.
The number of adolescents in England vaccinated against certain cancers, meningitis, sepsis and other deadly diseases fell 20% after the first lockdown last year.
There was also a much smaller but still significant 2% drop in the number of young children receiving their first dose of the MMR vaccine, which protects against measles, mumps and rubella.
The figures are contained in the minutes of the last quarterly meeting of the Joint Committee on Immunization and Immunization (JCVI). Although the meeting took place on June 22, the minutes were only published on the government’s website on Friday August 20.
The minutes indicate that JCVI expressed particular concern about the 2% drop in MMR vaccine uptake. The decline began in May 2020, and in September of last year demand was 2% lower than in the same period in 2019, before the pandemic arrived. JCVI is concerned that those who do not receive the vaccine will end up contracting measles, mumps or rubella in childhood or adulthood.
“The committee noted a worrying drop in the absorption of the first dose of MMR, which could lead to a strong accumulation of sensitive subjects in the longer term if this continued,” the minutes said. When the committee met in June, “an official catch-up [programme] for MMR via primary care services using the call and recall was being discussed for those under five or under three, ”he added.
Although the figures underlying what the JCVI described as “very large reductions” in vaccine coverage for adolescents relate only to England, the expert committee made it clear that “the data for the England mirrored those of the United Kingdom ”.
From May to September last year, the number of high school students who received three key adolescent vaccines also fell “by about 20%,” the JCVI said. They were the:
the HPV vaccine, which reduces the risk of developing cervical cancer and many other forms of cancer;
MenACWY jab, which protects against meningitis and sepsis;
three-in-one adolescent booster vaccine, also known as Td / IPV vaccine, which fights tetanus, diphtheria and polio.
The JCVI also noted that 10% fewer older people had been vaccinated against shingles between April and June 2020 compared to the same period a year earlier.
The committee did not explain in detail why drops in several important vaccinations were seen in the months following the start of the first lockdown on March 23, 2020.
But the minutes added: “The committee was aware that vaccination fatigue could be a problem given the huge commitments in the Covid-19 and influenza programs as well as the increased pressure in primary care with more people returning to see their general practitioner and for hospital appointments. “
Public Health England was so concerned about the drop in childhood vaccination rates during the lockdown that last November it urged parents to make sure their offspring get stung.