TOP charities, including the Wellcome Trust, Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation, have warned that a lack of fully vaccinated children could see a “colossal” increase in childhood mortality from infectious diseases.
The organisations, which are among the UK’s most committed supporters of immunisation, have told health professionals across Europe that too many parents are not giving their children the full measure of protection from rubella.
They point to newly published statistics from the World Health Organisation that have revealed a steep rise in cases of pertussis, which many people call “whooping cough”, over the past two years. The recent deaths of two 11-year-old girls from ME and another of a third-year-old girl from meningitis A show how every day children’s lives can be put at risk because their parents are not vaccinating.
Despite the fact that nearly every child born today in the UK is due to receive the full recommended course of the MMR vaccine, about one in 12 has not.
The WHO data reveals that the number of cases of pertussis have increased in Europe for the first time in nearly 40 years. The sharp rise could be down to a combination of reasons. Some children are unprotected due to parents choosing not to vaccinate their children. The rest are not receiving the full recommended dose of the MMR jab, or have not received the full course because they have been too young to get their vaccination under their first MMR jab.
According to the WHO, in almost all the EU countries, pertussis cases increased from 2,595 in 2014 to 7,603 in 2015. About 80% of the increase was in Belgium, with Slovenia and Bulgaria recording similar rises.
Dr Penny Woods, CEO of the British Heart Foundation, said: “Too many children are not getting fully vaccinated. This puts the lives of our children at risk, and could be disastrous if more parents get the right information about the risks and benefits of vaccination and make their choice properly.”
Dr Peter Carter, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “Pertussis is a disease that can kill. It can also cause serious complications in babies, so early treatment is vital to prevent this growing disease.
“We know vaccinations are the answer, but parents need to be given the best information to allow them to make the right decisions for their children. And wherever parents have concern, they should be able to obtain all the information they need about vaccinations from a trained healthcare professional.”