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Doctors urge government action as MMR vaccinations hit eight year low

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Emily Morgan

The subject of vaccinations is cropping up again and again - and some would say for good reason.

Uptake of the second dose of the MMR vaccination is at an eight year low, currently it stands at 87 per cent, way below the 95 per cent target. That target is important because once it's reached, the disease can't spread through a community even if someone gets the disease.

The reason I write about it today is because of research ITV News has done in conjunction with the Royal College of GPs. And the results are very interesting. I wanted to find out what doctors, on the ground, think about the anti-vaccination sentiment doing the rounds and whether they believed it was actually having a tangible effect on uptake.

It appears they think it is.

Of all those who said they had seen a drop in uptake at their surgery the vast majority put it down to social media. And over half (54 per cent) don't believe the government is doing enough to combat disinformation.

Doctors are urging more action to get people to have vaccinations Credit: PA

The most interesting results though were what doctors think the solution is.

74 per cent of those asked said the MMR jab should be compulsory in the UK.

61 per cent think it should be compulsory in schools.

This is interesting because, until now, we've heard from very few GPs who actually believe making it mandatory would solve the problem. Now it appears many members of the Royal College of GPs do think it would help boost uptake and perhaps finally help eradicate preventable diseases.

Dr Sam Everington, who practices in east London, is so insistent he has written to the government calling for the MMR vaccination to be made compulsory for children going to school. He is one of the first, along with four of his colleagues, to come out and say publically the law needs to change around vaccinations.

  • Luke Gardner, 21, wasn’t vaccinated with the MMR jab as a child, and ended contracting two of the three diseases in his late teens. His parents now-disgraced doctor Andrew Wakefield published his notorious and now disproved medical report linking autism with the MMR vaccination. At the age of 19 he contracted rubella, then mumps when he was just finishing is degree at 20.

So, will the Royal College listen to its members and change their position on vaccinations?

The short answer is, no.

Its chair, Helen Stokes-Lampard concedes the tide is turning in surgeries and doctors are increasingly frustrated with patients not wanting to get their children vaccinated. But she says making them mandatory should be the last resort. She argues many people don't agree it's the right course of action - that doctors should not be enforcers, that it would destroy trust between GPs and their patients and that people are concerned about the 'nanny state'. She says they would always consider changing their position but only when they properly consult on it and there is an overwhelming will to do so.

Vaccinations are offered to young children - but many parents are refusing them. Credit: PA

The government is not closed eared on this.

Boris Johnson himself announced there is to be a new vaccine strategy this autumn and tonight the government has again said it is considering all the options for improving uptake. It is clear then that the government is well aware there is a problem and perhaps in time we will find out what they intend to do.

Last month the UK lost its measles-free status because of the rise in number of cases this year. That is a damning indictment for a country that has a first rate health service and one that is dealing with a preventable disease. Many doctors, and indeed many parents, are now saying how bad does it need to get before radical change comes about?

A Department of Health and Social Care Spokesperson told ITV News: "We know action is urgently needed to drive up vaccine rates and earlier this summer the Prime Minister announced that we would be publishing a comprehensive new vaccine strategy this Autumn.

"In the meantime, we are working closely with partners including social media companies to challenge harmful misinformation about vaccines and are working with GPs to deliver a catch-up programme for those that have not yet had both doses of the MMR jab."