Immunisation programme targets ‘record-high’ demand

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Everyone from babies to 16-year-olds should now receive vaccinations for diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio and whooping cough

A key vaccination programme for young children will start later because of “unprecedented” demand.

The Department of Health (DoH) said the opt-out population had more than doubled in recent years.

Parents asked for more time to discuss the vaccine with healthcare professionals, with a total of 70,000 requests made.

DoH figures show that each week 40,000 more people come forward requesting the vaccine.

Pre-school children aged 2-4 years had to be vaccinated against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio and whooping cough, but is no longer obligatory for 16-year-olds and 18-year-olds because of the strong demand.

‘Not always safe’

The DoH said: “Whilst the uptake rate for the diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccines is expected to reach 95%, parents have now requested more time to discuss the vaccines with their healthcare professionals.

“Ongoing high levels of childhood vaccination mean the vaccines cannot, and do not, discriminate on ethnicity, gender, geography or socio-economic circumstances.”

There were a total of 114,000 opt-outs in 2018, up from the 51,000 recorded in 2014 and the first year vaccinations for 2019 were not required for 16-year-olds.

The main reason parents gave for requesting more time to discuss the vaccination was fear about safety and the impact of vaccination on their child’s health, the DoH said.

Childhood immunisation specialist and consultant in pediatrics at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, Jo Colgrove, said: “There is often a lot of anxiety about these vaccines and the fear of the unknown is very real, and this is why this report continues to highlight the importance of delivering vaccines to children in the best possible conditions.”

The minimum age of immunisation for the current diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTaP) vaccine is 4 years of age, rising to 6 years for those aged between 6 and 9 years old, or 7 years of age for those aged between 9 and 14 years old.

The DVT-Tdap is not due to become mandatory for 16-year-olds until autumn 2020.

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