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North West pharmacies champion national effort to boost MMR vaccine accessibility

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Parents of children aged 5 to 11 who are overdue for one or both doses of the vaccine can simply walk into these pharmacies without needing an appointment or a referral from a GP

Several community pharmacies in the north-west have embraced the nationwide rollout of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine for children aged 5 to 11 who have missed their doses.

These pharmacies are leading the country in initiating the vaccination programme, aimed at supporting a national call and recall of under-vaccinated children and increasing MMR vaccine coverage.

According to NHS England, there are currently 28 participating pharmacies in the North West, with 13 located in Lancashire & South Cumbria and 14 in Cheshire & Merseyside. The scheme will soon expand to include a small number of pharmacies in Greater Manchester.

Tricia Spedding, Regional Deputy Head of Public Health for NHS England – North West, emphasised the importance of measles prevention, highlighting its severe complications such as blindness, deafness, and brain swelling.

She cautioned that children who haven’t received both doses of the MMR vaccine are vulnerable to this preventable disease.

“By offering the MMR vaccine in pharmacies to children who missed one or both doses, we are hoping to make it easier and more convenient for parents to get their children protected,” Spedding commented.

Michael Ball, a pharmacist clinician at Broadway Pharmacy in Preston, Lancashire, participating in the pilot initiative, highlighted that pharmacists can address vaccine hesitancy and provide informed healthcare advice, contributing to increased vaccination rates.

“Offering MMR vaccines at community pharmacies provides patients with the chance to access services within their local community at a convenient time, enhancing accessibility and ultimately increasing vaccination rates,” he said.

The current MMR vaccine uptake in the North West stands at 85.2 per cent, below the World Health Organisation’s target of 95 per cent coverage, with two doses of MMR vaccine by the age of 5.

To address this, various initiatives have been introduced, including vaccine catch-up clinics in general practice, community outreach clinics, and extra vaccination sessions in schools.

Parents are urged to ensure their children are vaccinated promptly, with GPs actively reaching out to vaccinate children aged 12 months to 5 years.

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