This week is World Health Organisation (WHO) World Immunisation Week and parents and carers are being urged to check that their child’s vaccinations are up-to-date, protecting them from serious diseases and helping to prevent outbreaks.
According to NHS England, while the majority of parents do ensure their child is fully vaccinated, hundreds of children in East Sussex are either missing key doses or have not been vaccinated at all.
These early childhood vaccinations are vitally important as they help to build immunity, protecting a child against a host of serious diseases such as some strains of meningitis, diphtheria, measles, mumps, rubella and whooping cough.
Successful vaccination programmes have helped to make such diseases much rarer, but they are still in circulation and if vaccination levels fall, the likelihood of an outbreak is increased.
Achieving at least 90 per cent coverage in the local population is the minimum target to prevent infections spreading.
While the majority of children are vaccinated, in 2016 only 88 per cent of children from East Sussex had received both doses of the MMR jab, meaning more than 700 are potentially not protected.
Similarly, only 87 per cent of eligible children had received the 4-in-1 pre-school booster, with more than 760 children not fully protected against the risk of diphtheria, polio, tetanus and whooping cough.
NHS England has said it is likely these children missed other earlier jabs too.
It is particularly important that a child is up to date with their vaccinations before they start school as this is when they come into contact with many more potential sources of infection.
It is not too late for children to catch up with their vaccinations, ensuring that they are fully protected, with parents and carers urged to speak to their GP surgery.
Dr Max Kammerling, medical consultant in Public Health, Surrey and Sussex Screening and Immunisation Lead, said: “While the majority of parents are ensuring their child is fully vaccinated, many children are still missing doses, putting them at risk and the wider community.
“Vaccination protects your child and the wider population from serious diseases and it is vital that they complete all the doses to build up the right levels of protection, particularly before they go to school.
“We know that for busy parents it can be easy to lose track of which vaccinations your child has had, but it is not too late – speak to your GP surgery to check if your child is up-to-date with their vaccinations and make sure your child is protected.”