Should the government require children to be vaccinated for preventable diseases? 

Vaccinations work.  Smallpox is a disease that once caused millions of deaths but coordination of a vaccination program across the world meant the disease was completely removed in the 1970s. Polio was once a devastating disease in the UK but is now endemic in just three countries.  This is partly thanks to the “End Polio Now” campaign led by Rotary Clubs across the world including many in Chelmsford.  The UK government is also a leading donor. 

The UK is also leading the battle against the latest Ebola outbreak in Congo where initial results from British health workers on the front-line show that a new vaccine funded by UK aid has proved up to 97% effective. 

Ten years on since the HPV vaccination stated in English schools the infection rate has fallen by nearly 90%.  This is expected to lead to a dramatic reduction in the “Silent Killer” of cervical cancer and other cancers.  This vaccination is now also being given to boys.

In recent years the MMR vaccination has been so effective that is often easy to forget that measles can also be life threatening.  Some children, especially those with reduced immunity due to other diseases such as cancer, cannot be vaccinated so maintaining a high level of vaccination rate is vital to achieve the “herd immunity” which prevents outbreaks.  Worryingly a drop in the number of children getting their second jab has contributed to the return of measles with 970 cases reported in England last year.  Measles is now endemic in countries including France, Italy and Germany where fines have been introduced for parents who do not have their children vaccinated and access to Kindergarten and school is restricted for unvaccinated children. 

This summer the government announced urgent measures including ‘catch up’ vaccination programmes and support for areas with low uptake.  Updated evidence-based advice is being provided to parents to address concerns which have resulted from misleading reports often spread by social media.  Public Health England and NHS England are working on a comprehensive strategy which is due to be delivered this autumn.

Vicky Ford MP September 2019