Families with children going to school for the first time are being asked to check that they are up-to-date with routine vaccinations, including the important combined Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) jab.
North Yorkshire County Council is making the appeal as new figures from Public Health England show that around one in seven five-year-olds may not have had all their routine immunisations.
County Councillor Caroline Dickinson, Executive Member for Public Health, said: “We are concerned that around 700 five-year-olds in the county are starting school at unnecessary risk of serious diseases compared to the majority of their new classmates, who are up to date with routine vaccinations. This leaves them at high risk of catching measles at a time when outbreaks of the disease are occurring across the country.
“It’s a real concern that so many young children could be starting school without the full protection that the NHS childhood immunisation programme offers for free. We know that parents and carers want the best protection for their children, and many simply may be unaware that their child is not up-to-date.
“We’re urging all parents and carers of primary school starters to check their child’s Red Book now to make sure there is a record of two MMR doses and the 4-in-1 booster vaccine that protects against diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus and polio. If not, they should contact their GP practice to arrange any further vaccinations that are needed.”
Kathryn Ingold, Consultant in Public Health for North Yorkshire, said: “In England, the first dose of the MMR vaccine 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 4-in-1 pre-school booster is also usually offered at three years and four months of age. We often think that diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus and polio are things of the past, but whilst tetanus and polio are still rare thanks to the success of the immunisation programme, over the past few years there have been cases of whooping cough and diphtheria in school-aged children.
“To check if your child has received all their vaccines on schedule, please visit the NHS website and check in their Red Book. If in any doubt, please contact your GP practice.”
Cllr Dickinson added: “It’s never too late for a young person to be immunised, and it’s a really good idea for 10 and 11-year-olds who have missed out earlier to catch up with any missing MMR vaccinations before they go to secondary school.
“People up to the age of 18 who missed, or only partially completed, their earlier MMR vaccination can have a free catch-up vaccination from their GP.”