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Britain seeks ‘urgent reversal’ of fall in childhood vaccination rates

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The government will on Thursday launch a drive to boost childhood vaccination rates, health authorities said, seeking an “urgent reversal” to a fall in uptake as the country faces a worsening measles outbreak.

Routine childhood immunisations in Britain for diseases including measles, mumps and rubella, diphtheria and polio, have been falling gradually over the past decade, but dipped more sharply after the Covid-19 pandemic, mirroring a global decline.

Last year UNICEF said people worldwide had lost confidence in the importance of routine childhood vaccines during the pandemic, with misinformation, dwindling trust in governments and political polarisation contributing to rising hesitancy.

Britons will begin seeing adverts from next week across various media, including a television campaign featuring children reminding parents of the risk of missing out on vaccinations, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said.

“We need an urgent reversal of the decline in the uptake of childhood vaccinations to protect our communities,” UKHSA chief executive Jenny Harries said in a statement.

“There are still high numbers of children in some areas that continue to be unprotected from preventable diseases … Unless uptake improves we will start to see the diseases that these vaccines protect against re-emerging and causing more serious illness.”

The campaign comes amid a rise in measles infections in England, with the number of reported cases rising to 650 since October 1, the UKHSA said. More than 180 new cases have been reported in just the last four weeks.

UKHSA data shows uptake among two-year-old children in England for the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine reached a post-pandemic low in 2021. It has recovered only slightly since then, remaining below the World Health Organisation’s target of 95 per cent coverage, required to create herd immunity.

(Reuters)

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