Public Health England has issued a reminder to parents about the importance of getting their children vaccinated, in response to data showing that the number of families taking their children has dropped since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
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Vaccines have certainly made all the headlines this week thanks to the announcement of a COVID vaccine coming in a matter of weeks.
But with normal life still months away, parents are being warned to keep up to date with their children's vaccination appointments – something that's more important than ever.
Yesterday, Public Health England (PHE) issued a stern reminder to parents that childhood vaccination appointments are still going ahead despite the coronavirus pandemic.
The warning came in response to a decline in the number of children receiving the MMR and hexavalent (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio) vaccines since the first national lockdown started in March this year, leaving thousands of children at risk of illness.
Take up of vaccinations has increased since then, but is still lower than usual and experts are worried the new lockdown restrictions this month and into December will lead to a further drop.
Dr Nisha Jayatilleke, from NHS England and NHS Improvement, said:
'Vaccines provide essential protection against potentially life-threatening diseases, and the NHS is doing everything it can to enable children to continue to have their vaccinations, while keeping them safe from coronavirus. Provided you, your child or any member of your household are not showing signs of coronavirus, we strongly encourage you to take your children for their vaccination appointments.'
According to PHE's data from 38% of GP practices, there has been 3.8% fewer hexavalent vaccines and 2.8% fewer MMR vaccines given compared to the same time last year.
Talking about the importance of these vaccinations, Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said:
'As we make progress developing a vaccine to help us tackle Covid-19, we mustn’t neglect the vaccines that we already have. Vaccines only work if people have them and it would be a tragedy if following the current pandemic, we experienced outbreaks of other deadly diseases for which vaccines already exist because, for whatever reason, people didn’t come forward for their jabs.'
As well as the MMR and hexavalent vaccines, parents have been encouraged to ensure 2-3-year olds get their flu nasal sprayfrom their GP as winter approaches, and those with kids at school should return the consent form so that the vaccine is given there.
Your school should be administering the flu spray this month and into December.
Watch Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam explain what vaccines are and what's in them in more detail in this video from the Department of Health and Social Care.
Check out the full vaccination schedule for babies and children here and talk to others about your child's health in our drop-in clinic below.
What your family needs to know about the COVID vaccine