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National immunisation programme continues to save lives

The government's national immunisation programme has prevented well over 3,000 cases of death or serious illness and has ensured that young people are not at risk from meningitis, according to a new report.

The Director of Immunisation's report reveals that, for the first time, there were no deaths in the under-19s from menC (meningococcal C/meningitis) last year. Previously menC has killed up to 78 people a year and left serious complications such as brain damage and amputations in survivors.

The report underlines the importance of the government's focus on preventing ill health and proves that immunisation prevents more serious illness and much bigger costs in years to come.

The report also states that:

  • A recent survey (November 2007) found that 73% of parents feel the MMR vaccine is safe, compared to 63% in 2003.
  • Since its introduction in 2006, the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) has prevented an estimated 470 cases of serious illness or deaths in young children (such as meningitis, septicaemia and severe pneumonia).
  • Cases of menC in children have reduced by 95% since the introduction of the meningococcal C conjugate vaccine in 1999 - and over 500 deaths have been prevented.
  • Just over 85% of children now receive one dose of MMR vaccine by their second birthday.
  • 74% of people aged 65 and over in England received their flu vaccine in 2006/07. There were no delays with the vaccine supply this year.

Professor David Salisbury said: "This report highlights some of the recent successes and new challenges for our immunisation programme. It is published during the World Health Organization European Immunisation Week as our work links in with the international efforts to protect our children from vaccine preventable diseases. However, it is imperative that we continue to do all we can to encourage take up of vaccines - particularly MMR.

"The evidence on MMR is clear. Population studies and studies in individual children show no link between the vaccine and autism. We need to put that scare behind us and make sure our children are as well protected as possible".

Dawn Primarolo, Public Health Minister said: "This report underlines the need for vaccination and proves that our programme is helping to halt diseases in their tracks. It is proof that the UK has one of the most successful immunisation programmes in the world, thanks to the hard work of NHS staff.

"The childhood immunisation programme continues to be a cornerstone of public health protection in this country. Parents can be confident that making sure their children have their routine jabs is the best way to protect them."

Department of Health