Having suffered a drop at the beginning of the pandemic, uptake of childhood vaccinations has stabilised and returned to normal levels, according to a new Public Health England report.
The report reviews aggregated childhood vaccination counts of the first hexavalent vaccinations delivered to infants below six months and of the first measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccinations to children aged 12-18 months from The Phoenix Partnership GP IT system supplier to assess the effect of physical distancing measures on vaccination delivery.
It indicates that vaccination counts for first dose of MMR in children aged 12-18 months and first dose of the hexavalent vaccine (DTaP/IPV/Hib/HepB) in children aged six months fell at the introduction of the physical distancing measures in March 2020 compared with the same period in 2019. However, this was followed by a rise from week 16 onwards, which has stabilised and is now comparable to vaccination counts prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The report says “the initial decrease in vaccination counts may be associated with COVID-19 messaging about staying home which could have overwhelmed the messaging that the routine immunisation programme was to continue and with GPs rescheduling appointments in the initial weeks to ensure social distancing measures were maintained within GP practices.”
As physical distancing measures relax, it is important for GPs to continue offering routine immunisations, and where required, recovery plans should be put in place to account for the initial drop in vaccination counts.
It must be noted that the data presented are from one GP IT supplier and therefore do not represent data for all of England and not reflect regional and local variation.