PARENTS face being fined for refusing to vaccinate their kids – as uptake of all key childhood jabs fell for the first time on record.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the deadly drop in immunisation rates was “unacceptable” and refused to rule out “bold action”.
NHS Digital data shows uptake of all 13 routine childhood vaccines plunged in the last 12 months.
Proposals now being considered by ministers to reverse the decline include mandatory vaccination.
It could see unvaccinated children banned from schools or fines issues to parents who refuse jabs.
The report reveals the proportion of kids protected against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) has dropped for the seventh consecutive year.
And levels of coverage for the 5-in-1 jab – which prevents diseases including diphtheria, tetanus and whooping – has hit a ten-year low at 92.1 per cent uptake.
Experts fear a mix of complacency and social media scare stories are putting people off life-saving jabs.
Health Secretary, Matt Hancock said: “Falling childhood vaccination rates are unacceptable. Everyone has a role to play in halting this decline.
“The loss of our measles free status is a stark reminder that devastating diseases can, and will, resurface.
“We need to be bold and I will not rule out action so that every child is properly protected.”
The findings come a month after the UK lost its World Health Organisation “measles-free” status, as parents shunned jabs for children.
Cases more than doubled in two years and the infection rate is rising.
There were 532 in the first half of this year — yet 259 in all of 2017, says Public Health England.
All kids should get two doses of the MMR vaccine before primary school to be fully protected – usually at 12 months and three years and four months.
But the numbers starting reception fully vaccinated is at its lowest level in seven years, with 86.4 per cent covered – down from 87.1 per cent a year earlier.
That is well below the 95 per cent target set by the World Health Organisation.
‘LIFE-SAVING PART OF BRITAIN’
Professor Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, said: “Vaccines are a vital, life-saving part of our country’s public health and the numbers of children not being vaccinated is concerning.
“No one should be complacent about getting their own or their child’s jabs and so the NHS is taking action, with its partners, to combat the decline and to reverse the dangerous effects of complacency about vaccines.”
Medical leaders warned more must be done to combat “toxic myths” about jabs on social media.
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs, said: “Even a small drop in the take-up of vaccinations is very concerning.
What jabs does your baby or child need?
According to the NHS website, these are the routine vaccinations that are offered to babies and children in the UK:
MMR vaccine – protects your child against three separate illnesses: measles, mumps and rubella/
6-in-1 vaccine – protects against six serious childhood diseases: diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type b) and hepatitis B.
Pneumoccocal or pneumo jab (PCV) – protects against some types of pneumococcal infection, which are caused by the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae and can lead to pneumonia, septicaemia and meningitis.
Rotavirus vaccine – protects against rotavirus infection, a common cause of diarrhoea and sickness.
Men B vaccine – protects against infection caused by meningococcal type B bacteria, which can lead to meningitis and septicaemia.
Hib/Men C vaccine – prevents against Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) and meningitis C infections, which can be serious or potentially fatal.
Children’s flu vaccine – protects against flu which can have potentially serious complications, including bronchitis and pneumonia.
4-in-1 pre-school booster – protects against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough and polio.
HPV vaccine (girls only) – designed to protect girls against cervical cancer.
3-in-1 teenage booster – used to boost your child’s protection against three separate diseases: tetanus, diphtheria and polio.
Men ACWY vaccine – teenagers and “fresher” students going to university are advised to have a vaccination to prevent meningitis and septicaemia.
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“We are aware of the destructive anti-vaccination messages that are circulating online and via social media, and these are perpetuating toxic myths that are not backed by any evidence or false claims that have been completely debunked.
“Parents need to be aware of the clear, evidence-based findings about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.”
And Dr Peter English, from the British Medical Association’s public health medicine committee, said: “There is a clear need to curb the damaging spread of false and misleading information on vaccinations by enforcing standards and placing legal obligations on social media corporations.”
The Sun Says
IT is terrifying to see vaccination rates for dangerous childhood diseases dropping.
Some of it is parental idleness. Some is the spread of long-debunked internet scare stories.
All families MUST be made to get kids their jabs before rates fall so low these illnesses can take hold.
If that needs fines or exclusions, so be it.