It’s bad news and good news in the story that we carry on page 12 today about childhood immunisations.
In a nutshell, in Portsmouth we’re behind the level we should be at, but the signs are there that more and more children are being vaccinated each year, so the overall levels are rising.
There can be no finger-pointing in this situation. The recent measles outbreak in Swansea and the relatively low take-up in immunisation rates for the measles, mumps and rubella jab can be attributed as a direct consequence of the health scare of the late 1990s.
The now-discredited Dr Andrew Wakefield claimed there was a link between the triple MMR jab and autism. Then, as now, autism was an unexplained but rising problem at the time many parents were understandably keen to do the best by their children and so boycotted the immunisation.
Now a generation is left to catch up, and we hope that there are no more outbreaks. So far, in Portsmouth and the surrounding areas, although our immunisation rate has been at the lower end of the scale (although as already mentioned, on the rise) we have been fortunate that the number of measles cases has been low.
And while the billboards around the city urging parents to be superheroes by ensuring their children have their jabs can sometimes seem a bit incongruous, frankly whatever gets the message home best is the correct path to take on behalf of the city’s health authorities.
So achieving the ‘herd immunity’ level of 95 per cent must remain the target – not just for MMR but across the board, for whooping cough, tetanus, polio and all the avoidable childhood diseases.
The message must continue to be sent out to parents – get your children immunised. The health establishment is not trying to cover up dirty secrets, or hoodwink the population. Modern medical thinking is unanimous – and the original flawed piece of research claiming the autism link has now been retracted. These jabs will save pain and potentially lives: we must keep pushing our immunisation rate up.