Heads back jabs battle

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HEADTEACHERS have given their backing to plans aimed at boosting immunisation levels.

Hartlepool lags behind the rest of the country when it comes to children being immunised against potentially deadly diseases by their first and second birthdays, as revealed by the Hartlepool Mail.

The vast majority are vaccinated, but there are still hundreds of children needlessly susceptible to diseases including measles, polio, diphtheria and tetanus.

Now health bosses, who are working on a strategy to tackle the issue, have received support from headteachers at both primary and secondary schools across town.

The issue was raised at a meeting of Hartlepool’s shadow health and well-being board, held at the One Life Centre, in Park Road.

Louise Wallace, assistant director of health improvement at NHS Hartlepool, said: “Schools are key to this.

“At a recent meeting of headteachers they gave their support to doing whatever they can to raise the profile of immunisation.

“The support and recognition was there. The strategy will be coming back to the board in April.

“It will focus on increasing the up-take while also recognising the importance of immunisation.”

As previously reported, the percentage of town youngsters in 2010-11 having their MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) jabs by their second birthday was just 85.4 per cent, or 980 out of 1,148 eligible.

That is the lowest uptake in the region and well below the North-East average of 91.4 per cent, while the national average was 89.1 per cent.

In 2010-11, 168 children did not receive their MMR vaccination by their second birthday with around 150 not receiving their second dose by their fifth birthday.

The number receiving their Meningitis C jabs is also lower in Hartlepool than the North-East and national average.

Health chiefs say possible reasons include the childhood vaccination programme being a victim of it own success in that people no longer see the devastating consequences of vaccine preventable diseases.

Meanwhile, the percentage of children immunised by their first birthday for diphtheria, tetanus, polio, Hib and Pertussis is 92.4 per cent, or 1,083 out of the 1,172 eligible.

The number being immunised for the same diseases by their second birthday is 95.2 per cent, or 1,093 out of 1,148, which is again lower than the North-East and national average.

The number immunised by their fifth birthday does improve but it is the amount of those unvaccinated before the age of two that is causing concern.

Responsibility for public health and health services is being transferred from primary care trusts to local authorities through the new boards, which brings together the NHS, local authority and health watchdogs.

l Childhood vaccines are provided free of charge. Parents should contact their local GP to arrange an appointment.