Northern Ireland

Belfast Trust not hitting MMR booster vaccine targets

MMR VACCINE Image copyright Hailshadow

Uptake of the the MMR booster vaccine in the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust is below World Health Organisation (WHO) targets and is 7% lower than the NI average, the trust has said.

The trust said it was trying to identify why and was working to improve the figure.

Children get their first MMR vaccine (MMR1) when they are 13 months old.

They are then offered a booster (MMR2) at about age three.

Figures from October - December 2018 show that the Belfast Trust is within target for uptake of MMR1, which meets the 95% target set by the WHO.

However, the proportion of children receiving both doses of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR2) jab by their fifth birthday drops to 85.4%.

This is below the 95% the WHO says is the level necessary to protect a population from a disease.

The trust said it was working in partnership with the Public Health Agency (PHA), the Health and Social Care Board and GP practices.

A spokesman added: "We would encourage parents to give their children the best protection against a range of diseases by ensuring they receive all their vaccinations when invited to do so."

Vaccination deniers

In May, figures revealed that from 2010 to 2017 more than half a million children in the UK were unvaccinated against measles.

The head of NHS England warned "vaccination deniers" were gaining traction on social media.

Consultant in Health Protection at the PHA in Northern Ireland Dr Jillian Johnston said there had been "a lot of information circulating about the safety of vaccinations".

"It can be confusing, therefore it is important for people to get information from a reliable source," she said.

She added: "The MMR vaccine is very safe - it has proven to be a safe and effective way to help protect against measles, mumps and rubella."

The PHA recently launched an MMR video to highlight the importance of the vaccine.

Figures from other trusts show that from October to December 2018 uptake of MMR2 was about 93% in the Northern Health Trust, 94% in the Western Health Trust, 93% in the Southern Health Trust and about 93% in the South Eastern Trust.

Image copyright Jovanmandic

The UK was declared free of the highly contagious measles disease for the first time by the WHO in 2017.

But in 2018, it experienced small outbreaks, and in March this year there was a sharp increase of cases across Greater Manchester.

In May some experts called for compulsory measles vaccinations for all children starting primary school.

Italian researchers believe the current voluntary programmes in countries like the UK will not be enough to curb outbreaks in the coming decades.

They said vaccination rates had fallen because of misleading campaigns claiming vaccinations are dangerous.

But others have questioned whether compulsory vaccinations would help.

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