As thousands of parents across the East of England prepare their children to start primary school in the next few weeks, Public Health England (PHE) East of England is warning that 8,000 five-year-olds in the region may not be fully up-to-date with some routine immunisations.
These estimates, released as part of PHE's Value of Vaccines campaign, show that some four and five-year-olds are starting school at unnecessary risk of serious diseases compared to the majority of their classmates.
The findings have prompted a call for parents to check their child's Red Book to ensure their children are up-to-date with scheduled immunisations.
"It's a real concern that so many young children in our region could be starting school without the full protection that the NHS childhood immunisation programme offers for free. We know that parents want the best protection for their children and so many may be unaware that their child is not up-to-date with all their immunisations."
In the UK, dose one of the MMR vaccine, which protects against Measles, Mumps and Rubella, is usually given to infants at around 12 months of age. A second dose is given before school, usually at three years and four months of age, to ensure best protection.
Two doses of MMR in a lifetime are needed for a person to be considered fully protected. The four-in-one pre-school booster is also usually offered at three years and four months of age and protects against diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus and polio.
"We often think that these diseases are confined to the past, but the World Health Organisation has recently confirmed that measles is no longer eliminated in England . Whilst tetanus and polio are still rare thanks to the success of the NHS childhood immunisation programme, over the past few years we've also seen cases of whooping cough and diphtheria in school-aged children."
Around 680,000 five-year-olds start school in England each year according to Department for Education figures. Based on percentage uptake from latest vaccination coverage figures* PHE estimates that:
Over 30,000 (around one in 19) five-year-olds may still need to receive their first dose of MMR, leaving them significantly more at risk compared to pupils who are fully vaccinated. Around 3,000 of these children are in the East of England.
Around 90,000 (around one in seven) five-year-olds in England may still need to receive their second dose of MMR vaccine. Around 8,000 of these children are in the East of England.
Around 100,000 (around one in eight) five-year-olds in England may still need their four-in-one pre-school booster that protects against diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus and polio. Around 9,000 of these children are in the East of England.