NHS England will be writing to GP surgeries to urge them to promote catch-up MMR vaccines for children and young people, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced this week.
The Prime Minister has announced that ‘urgent action’ is needed to increase uptake of the MMR vaccine following news that the World Health Organization has rescinded the UK’s measles-free status due to the number of measles cases reported in 2018.
Action points announced by the Prime Minister include NHS England writing to GPs to urge them to promote catch-up vaccines for 5-25-year-olds who have not been vaccinated against measles.
Figures published earlier this year showed that the UK had the second lowest levels of MMR vaccine uptake in Europe.
Strengthening the role of local immunisation coordinators will be addressed, looking at how healthcare professionals in the community can be used to promote vaccines to hard-to-reach groups and deliver targeted interventions to under-vaccinated communities.
The Prime Minister said: ‘From reassuring parents about the safety of vaccines, to making sure people are attending follow-up appointments, we can and must do more to halt the spread of infectious, treatable diseases in modern-day Britain.’
The Department for Health, in partnership with NHS England and Public Health England, will also be releasing a strategy this autumn to tackle the lack of vaccine coverage, expected to address GP capacity to cover immunisation appointments, as part of the GP contract review, and whether alternative settings can deliver vaccines.
The strategy will also develop a campaign in conjunction with GP surgeries to promote the importance of vaccines and assess how technology can be used to improve appointment booking and call/recall systems, so that patients are more likely to attend appointments.
Other action points announced include updating advice on the NHS website to address concerns about vaccine safety and calling a summit of social media companies to discuss what they can do to promote accurate information on vaccines.
Royal College of Nursing professional lead for public health Helen Donovan said: ‘These suggestions will go some way towards improving the uptake of vaccines. A system-wide approach, better access to appointments combined with improved public information and communication with parents on a one-to-one level, is the most effective way to ensure more people receive vaccines they need.
‘Nurses are pivotal to earning public trust in the vaccination programme and are a vital source of information for parents and guardians.
‘This job is made more difficult when vaccination services are fragmented. The widespread nursing shortages further compound the issue.’