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Childhood immunisation figures highest in 14 years

30 March 2010

The uptake of childhood immunisations by Jersey children is at its highest rate for 14 years, according to the latest statistics from Public Health. 

95% of children reaching their 2nd birthday in 2009 received the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine compared with 88% in 2008, and 98% of infants reaching their 1st birthday in 2009 were vaccinated against serious diseases such as whooping cough, tetanus, diphtheria, polio and Hib meningitis.

Medical Officer of Health, Dr Rosemary Geller, said: “We are very pleased that the immunisation uptake has increased yet again. Every child has the right to be protected against serious diseases and these latest figures tell us that Jersey parents recognise the importance of vaccination. These figures are good news for children and for the Island because when vaccination coverage reaches 95%, it becomes extremely unlikely that these diseases will affect our community.”

Booster vaccinations, given at 12 and 13 months of age and designed to ensure continuing protection for children against 3 diseases that cause meningitis and blood poisoning, also improved to 93% (Hib and Meningitis C) and 94% (Pneumococcal disease) compared with 80% and 83% respectively in 2008. 

The uptake of the MMR vaccine is now at its highest rate since 1995 when it was 90%. Rates began to fall following publication of the now discredited claims made against the MMR vaccine by Dr Andrew Wakefield, reaching a low of 73% in 2003.

Clinical Lead for Immunisation and Community Paediatrician, Dr Mark Jones, said: “This upturn in MMR coverage demonstrates that despite adverse publicity surrounding this vaccine over recent years, parents are able to see through falsehoods, weigh up the evidence and make the correct choice to protect their child with a safe vaccine.”

Changes to the immunisation systems in the Island have also helped improve immunisation rates, as Dr Linda Diggle, who is Head of Healthcare Programmes and responsible for overseeing vaccination, explained: “Over the past 2 years, we’ve worked closely with our GP colleagues to streamline systems around immunisation. Parents can now visit their GP for pre-school booster vaccinations free of charge. Children used to receive this booster and the second MMR vaccine in school but our new arrangements means children can receive these immunisations BEFORE they go to school which is very important.

“We have also changed many of our ‘behind the scenes’ processes. For example, we’ve improved the distribution of vaccine to GP practices and we’re using a modern call / recall system to send letters to parents inviting them to go to their GP at the correct time that their child’s immunisations are due.

“We’ve made many improvements within the service but we still have further changes planned for the coming year. Our aim is now to complete the task we set ourselves – to ensure Jersey has a robust, first class immunisation programme, where parents have access to a free immunisation service that will continue for years to come.” 

If parents have questions about vaccination, they should contact the immunisation nurse specialist at Le Bas Centre on 443721 or speak with their GP.

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