UKHSA publishes childhood vaccination statistics

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has published the latest uptake figures for routine childhood immunisations in the quarterly COVER report.

The report monitors vaccine coverage for children in the UK aged 12 months, 24 months and five years.

The report shows that in this quarter, coverage in one-year-olds in England (excluding London) was at least 92 per cent for all immunisations except rotavirus.

However, for two-year-olds in England, coverage for some vaccines is below 90 per cent. For five-year-olds in England, coverage of the ‘6-in-1’ and MMR2 vaccines has increased slightly since the last quarter (by 0.2 per cent and 0.5 per cent respectively).

COVER shows that coverage of all vaccines is down from the peak levels reached previously. The vaccines offered at eight, 12 and 16 weeks provide protection against nine different infections. The first MMR vaccine is then offered at 24 months and top-up doses are also offered just before starting school at aged three years and four months.

A recently published survey from UKHSA found that the majority of parents have confidence in the NHS programme, with 89 per cent agreeing that vaccines work, 84 per cent agreeing they are safe and 82 per cent saying they are trusted.

The figures show that there has been a consistent decline in uptake of the childhood vaccination programme over the last decade. UKHSA points out that in areas where vaccination uptake is lower, the chances of an outbreak of infectious disease are increased, as seen with the recent measles outbreak in the West Midlands.

UKHSA has reminded parents to make sure their children are protected and has recently launched a national marketing campaign encouraging parents to protect their children with vaccination, alongside an operational catch-up campaign being run by the NHS.

Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at UKHSA, said: "Vaccination is one of the most important things we can do to give children the very best start in life. If children aren’t vaccinated, they’re not protected. So it’s concerning that uptake has stabilised at such low levels in the final months of 2023.

"We call on parents to help us reverse the downward trend we’ve seen over the past decade. If we can achieve the World Health Organization’s target of 95% coverage we can prevent these infections coming back. We are asking parents not to wait until measles is on your doorstep and to remember the impact that these illnesses can have on children, young people and even adults.

"Unless action is taken and uptake improves, we are likely to see the diseases that these vaccines prevent against re-emerging."