UK government considers compulsory immunization for all school children

Immunization efforts have been implemented across the globe. But, the rates of immunized children are dropping. In the United Kingdom, health officials have expressed alarms the drop in take-up of routine childhood vaccinations, leaving thousands of children under-protected from 13 different diseases.

In fact, the UK lost its measles-free status due to the fall in MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccination rates. Now, the government is looking into making vaccination compulsory among school-aged children, especially those enrolled in state schools across England.  The health secretary, Matt Hancock, said he had taken legal advice on how to go about it when he spoke at an event at the Tory conference.

Measles also known as morbilli and rubeola is a highly contagious viral infection  Image Credit: Nobeastsofierce / Shutterstock
Measles also known as morbilli and rubeola is a highly contagious viral infection Image Credit: Nobeastsofierce / Shutterstock

Hancock emphasized on how he felt worried by the falling vaccination rates.

“I’ve said before that we should be open-minded, and frankly, what I’d say is that when the state provides services to people, then it’s a two-way street – you’ve got to take your responsibilities, too,” Hancock said in a statement.

He said that there are adequate reasons why children should be obliged to have vaccines when they go to school since if they’re not protected, they’re putting other children at risk.

“For measles, the falling vaccination rates are a serious problem, and it is unbelievable that Britain has lost its measles-free status,” he added.

Hancock said that he'd do whatever he can to reiterate the importance of vaccination, adding that if parents don’t vaccinate their kids, they’re not only putting their children at stake, but also those who can’t receive vaccination due to medical reasons, like those undergoing cancer treatment.

Falling immunization rates across England

In the latest report of the NHS Digital, vaccination rates fell over the past years across all routine immunizations. For the coverage of DTap/IPV/Hib vaccines, the coverage at 12 months was 92.1 percent, lowest since 2008 and 2009.

Meanwhile, the coverage of MMR1 and MMR2 coverage at five years has dropped to 94.5 percent, down from 94.9 percent in 2017 to 2018, and 86.4 percent down from 87.2 percent in 2017 to 2018, respectively.

Across all 13 vaccinations against the 13 childhood diseases, the drop varied from 0.2 percent to 1 percent. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that at least 95 percent of all children are immunized for eradication or control of the disease.

Health experts blamed the drop on vaccination rates on online claims that jabs don’t work or they can cause harm to children. Also, some parents did not let their children get vaccinated against certain diseases, which were considered eradicated in the country, like polio and measles, which can be serious if their children get infected.

They do not realize that these diseases may reemerge, and if their children did not receive the vaccine, they’re not protected. Their children are at a higher risk of contracting these disease, which can be life-threatening.

Falling immunization rates also experienced in other countries

Other countries are seeing declines in children getting vaccines, due to online claims and controversies revolving around immunization. For instance, the Philippines has seen the re-emergence of the poliovirus infection, which has been eradicated in the country since 2000. Now, there were reported cases of the infection among children in the country, and sewage waterways have tested positive for the virus.

The WHO and UNICEF report that declines in reported coverage from 2017 to 2018 may reflect the perception of doubt among citizens, which is related to vaccination following the dengue vaccine issue. Also, they said that the declines in immunization may also be linked to limited access to health care in people living in far-flung areas.

The United States experiences the same plight as the UK, with its measle-free status taken away due to the reemergence of the disease. In 2000, the country has been dubbed as measles-free but recently, there were outbreaks of measles in certain states, due to declines in measles vaccine coverage.

The CDC also reported that the number of children who have not received vaccines for preventable diseases has quadrupled since 2001. In 2017, the percentage of children who did not receive vaccinations by age two years old had skyrocketed from 0.9 percent in 2011 to a staggering 1.3 percent in 2015.

Angela Betsaida B. Laguipo

Written by

Angela Betsaida B. Laguipo

Angela is a nurse by profession and a writer by heart. She graduated with honors (Cum Laude) for her Bachelor of Nursing degree at the University of Baguio, Philippines. She recently completed a Master's Degree where she specialized in Maternal and Child Nursing and is now working as a clinical instructor and educator in the School of Nursing at the University of Baguio.

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