Hancock wrong on compulsory child vaccinations – top doctor

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Child getting measles vaccine


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The health secretary is wrong to think compulsory child vaccination will help tackle falling immunisation rates in England, a leading doctor says.

Matt Hancock has said he is “looking very seriously” at the option.

But Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health expert Dr David Elliman said it could be counter-productive and make people more suspicious.

He joined others in calling for vaccines to be offered in places such as supermarkets and music festivals.

Figures released last month showed vaccination rates for all nine vaccines given to children before the age of five fell in the last year in England – figures for the rest of the UK nations are better.

The UK lost its measles-free status in August amid a rising number of cases.

During 2018 there were nearly 1,000 cases – more than double the number in 2016.

Speaking at the Science Media Centre in London, Dr Elliman, a consultant in community child health at Great Ormond Street Hospital, said he found Mr Hancock’s view on compulsory vaccination “concerning” and “not evidence-based”.

“Compulsory vaccination ain’t going to work and isn’t going to get the support of most health professionals.”

He said it risked breaking the trust that exists between health professionals and the public and creating a row about civil liberties.

He also pointed out that it would do nothing to encourage those who have already missed vaccinations to take part in catch-up programmes, citing the need to reach out to people in their 20s who did not have the MMR vaccine at the height of the scare two decades ago.

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Matt Hancock says unvaccinated children are putting other children at risk

Instead, he wants the government, which is drawing up a new vaccinations strategy, to focus on accessibility, saying he would like to see pop-up clinics being held at music festivals to reach out to those who missed out on the MMR jab at the turn of the century when uptake rates were even lower than they are now.

Prof Helen Bedford, of University College London, agreed accessibility was key.

“People live busy lives so if we can make it easier for them to get vaccinated I think we would see an increase in uptake.”

She said clinics could be held in children’s centres and even supermarkets, but warned it would require investment in vaccination teams and nurses to give the jabs.

The government said the vaccination strategy would be out later in the year.



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