Last year England lost its measles free status and saw a decline in uptake of all 13-childhood vaccination programmes. And this year, we’ve seen reports of mumps outbreaks as a result of poor MMR vaccine uptake in the late 1990s.
Vaccines are one of the greatest public health interventions; the benefits of which are broad, with the impact of a successful vaccination programme reaching across health, society and the economy.
The national schedule of vaccinations in the UK is world-leading and has resulted in some impressive outcomes, including a 50% reduction in cases of invasive meningococcal disease among children thanks to the Men B vaccine and an estimated 17,000 fewer cases of shingles.
But with a decline in coverage of all programmes, we cannot be complacent and must keep working towards improvements in the system. The GP contract reforms do exactly that and are a very welcome step in the right direction.
We believe that the changes announced, which include additional investment of £30 million in primary care vaccination and immunisation services, will go a long way to improving the system.
The changes establish clear and concise guidance on delivering vaccines in primary care, they simplify and standardize payments to GP practices for delivering vaccines (including incentive payments for improving vaccination coverage) and improve accountability across the system with each practice now needing a named vaccination lead.
They go a long way to addressing the immediate barriers in vaccination coverage in the UK, but there’s still a few things that we need clarity on.
Clarity is still needed on a few areas though. Such as the commitment to changing call and recall, (where practices proactively contact eligible people with reminders about their vaccinations) and what the desired ‘targets’ should be for vaccine coverage in areas with greater needs. Some of which is expected in guidance yet to be published.
These policies have already been proven to be successful at improving vaccination rates so, if they are extended and implemented, they will transform the existing system for the better.
The next step needs to be long term and future focused to maintain the UK’s world leading vaccination status. The Government’s upcoming Vaccine Strategy provides this next opportunity and should focus on making the system fit for the future – supporting existing programmes and ensuring rapid adoption of new vaccines to prevent ill health.
The next step needs to be long term and future focused to maintain the UK’s world leading vaccination status. The Government’s upcoming Vaccine Strategy provides this next opportunity