22 April 2013
Jersey’s Public Health Department are reminding parents about the importance of childhood immunisations at the start of European Immunization Week.
The reminder comes as parents in Wales are being asked to ensure their children are protected against measles, following the recent outbreak there.
The awareness-raising week (22 – 27 April) is organised by the European Region of the World Health Organization (WHO), and last year, all 53 member states of the WHO European Union took part.
Jersey’s Head of Healthcare Programmes, Dr Linda Diggle, said "The general theme of the week is to promote the use of vaccines to protect people of all ages against disease. If parents have their children vaccinated, they protect their child and they help protect others around them. Locally, in 2012, over 95% of children received their first recommended MMR vaccine by the age of two years, and almost 91% had had the second MMR (by the age of five years).
"This high uptake of the MMR vaccine by parents of young children is a reflection of parents in Jersey taking the risk of infectious diseases seriously, and the work done by health professionals to talk to parents about the importance of immunisation.
"We haven't seen any cases of measles in Jersey for some years but we aren't complacent - we always have children moving into Jersey from other areas and children, parents and our population are continually travelling to and from the UK and other countries, so we need to keep our children protected."
Dr Diggle added "Some experts in the UK are predicting that the epidemic of measles in Wales may move to other areas with low MMR vaccine coverage. In Jersey, we currently have very high vaccine uptake amongst our under-fives, however, this wasn’t always the case. In the early years of the millennium, uptake of MMR vaccine in Jersey plummeted in the years in and between 2002 and 2005. This was a direct result of adverse publicity in the national media. These children are now aged around 10-13."
"In 2003, the percentage of one year olds receiving MMR was just 73%. Whilst we believe many children who were unvaccinated in that period have since had the vaccines, we want to be sure of that. Our public health team are now searching child health records to identify which children from that 2002 – 2005 period remain unvaccinated and we’ll be contacting these parents and offering them the chance to get their child protected with the MMR vaccine."
In Jersey, the Public Health Department is proactive about immunisation and writes to parents when their child’s immunisations are due. In addition they send a birthday card to parents when their child reaches their first birthday to remind them of vaccines that are due at that age. The department is about to launch a birthday card for three years olds to remind parents that booster jabs are due when their child reaches three years four months.
Dr Diggle added "Parents are busy at work and feedback from parents of one year olds tells us they appreciate the birthday card reminder - so we intend to launch this also for this older age group."
Young children are offered protection against ten infectious diseases. School nurses run immunisations clinics to catch-up on school children who missed out on immunisations in the past. When children go into reception class and again when young people are due further booster immunisations in school Year 9, school nurses check children's immunisation histories and if vaccines have been missed, parents are offered the opportunity for their children to catch-up.
The most recent vaccine introduced in Jersey offers protection to girls against strains of human papilloma virus (HPV) which can cause cervical cancer. This vaccine was introduced in 2008 and has been very well received with an uptake of over 90% amongst girls in the current school Year 8.
Dr Diggle added "With medical and scientific knowledge continually advancing, there are new vaccines are on the horizon. It’s fantastic that we can offer immunisations to protect children against potentially serious diseases that our grandparents couldn’t do anything about. We mustn’t underestimate the potential seriousness of childhood diseases such as measles and the value of immunisation."
Vaccination against measles consists of a two dose course of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. The first dose if given at 12 months of age and the second dose is given at age three years and four months - the aim being to ensure children have the maximum protection against the three diseases before they start school.
If parents have questions about their child’s immunisations, they can contact their GP or the immunisation nurse specialist on +44(0) 1534 445790.