Campaign launches to drive up childhood vaccinations in the East Midlands amid growing concerns over falling uptake

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) is launching a new multi-media marketing campaign across England to remind parents and carers of the risk of their children missing out on protection against serious diseases that are re-emerging in the country – with an urgent call to action to catch up on missed vaccinations.
A new NHS vaccination campaign has been launched. Photo: NHS/UKHSAA new NHS vaccination campaign has been launched. Photo: NHS/UKHSA
A new NHS vaccination campaign has been launched. Photo: NHS/UKHSA

The campaign goes live on March 4 with a powerful video advert told from the perspective of children and in their voices.

“Our generation’s risk of illnesses like measles and whooping cough is rising” they tell their parents and carers looking straight into camera - “If we’re not vaccinated, we’re not protected.”

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The campaign comes as the latest weekly update today on measles cases in England shows there have been another 69 cases in the past week, bringing the total number of laboratory confirmed measles cases reported since October 1 2023 to 650, with 31 cases in East Midlands.

In the four weeks since January 29 2024, there have been 183 newly confirmed cases, with the highest number of cases reported in the West Midlands 43 per cent (79/183). During this period all regions have had confirmed cases, 19 per cent of cases have been (34/183) in the North West, 14 per cent (26/183) in London, 10 per cent (18/183) in the East Midlands and eight per cent (15/183) in Yorkshire and The Humber.

Uptake levels of childhood vaccines offered through the routine NHS vaccination programme in England have been falling over the past decade across all vaccines, including whooping cough, measles, mumps and rubella, polio, meningitis and diphtheria - with England no longer having the levels of population immunity recommended by WHO that is needed to prevent outbreaks. Crucially, lower vaccine uptake within communities is directly linked to wider health inequalities.

In the East Midlands, only 89.2 per cent of children are fully protected against the infections by their fifth birthday, meaning 1 in 10 are not fully protected by the time they start school. The number of children having had the two doses of the MMR vaccine needed for lifelong protection is 85.2 per cent in the East Midlands - well below the 95 per cent target.

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Dr Vanessa MacGregor, Consultant in Communicable Disease Control at UKHSA East Midlands, said: “We need an urgent reversal of the decline in the uptake of childhood vaccinations to protect our communities. Through this campaign we are particularly appealing to parents to check their children’s vaccination status and book appointments if their children have missed any immunisations. The ongoing measles outbreak we are seeing is a reminder of the very present threat.

“While the majority of the country is protected, there are still high numbers of children in some areas that continue to be unprotected from preventable diseases. It is not just their own health that can suffer, but other unvaccinated people around them such as school friends, family and those in their community could also experience serious infections.

“Unless uptake improves, we will start to see the diseases that these vaccines protect against re-emerging and causing more serious illness.”

To counter this decline, the UKHSA is co-ordinating its national marketing campaign with a NHS operational MMR catch up campaign.

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Areas with low uptake will be a focus for support and parents of children aged from six to 11 years will be contacted directly and urged to make an appointment with their child’s GP practice for any missed MMR vaccines.

In addition to the TV advert, the campaign will be seen across a range of channels and formats including radio advertising, digital display, online and on social media. The campaign will be supported by a number of key

stakeholders, including local authorities and NHS organisations.

Roz Lindridge, Regional Director of Commissioning for NHS England in the Midlands, said: “Routine vaccinations have been given to generations of children and are proven to be effective at preventing serious childhood illnesses.

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“They also protect those who are too young to be vaccinated and people who are vulnerable such as those who are immunocompromised, who benefit from the ‘herd immunity’ that happens when the majority of the population are vaccinated.

“That’s why we’ve been so concerned to see parts of the East Midlands experiencing low vaccination rates that are below the recommended levels.

“With the health of some children at risk because of falling vaccination rates, we really hope this campaign will help to remind parents about the important role childhood vaccines play and encourage them to bring their children forward when they are invited.”

The World Health Organisation recently repeated their warning on the growing measles threat due to sub-optimal vaccination rates well below the 95 per cent target, highlighting that more than half the world faces high measles risk. This includes Europe where it warns of the high probability of importation from areas experiencing high circulation and the fact that the seasonal peak of the virus could be seen in the coming months.

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Health Minister Maria Caulfield said: “Parents want what is best for their children – and that includes the vital protection that vaccines provide from preventable diseases.

“This campaign is an important step to engage local communities and highlight the importance of immunisation, as diseases like measles are not illnesses of the past. We want to make sure parents know how and where they can get essential jabs for their children as quickly as possible.

“I want to encourage parents to get their children immunised, particularly if they are behind on their immunisation schedule. Please check your children’s vaccination record and book in an appointment to get the jabs they need.”