THOUSANDS of schoolchildren are at risk of potentially fatal meningitis and sepsis after a sharp drop in vaccination coverage.
Vaccinations protect against the bacteria that cause infection, but many are unvaccinated, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has said.
Health officials said the drop in coverage left many children unprotected from life-threatening diseases.
9th grade children are offered the vaccinations at school as part of their routine childhood immunizations.
These include the 3-in-1 vaccine and the MenACWY vaccine, which protects against four strains of meningococcal bacteria – A, C, W and Y – which cause meningitis and blood poisoning.
Before the pandemic, around 88 percent of children took up the offer of these vaccinations, which were usually administered at the same time.
But in the 2021/22 academic year, that figure dropped to just 69 percent for both, according to UKHSA data.
In some parts of the UK, including Swindon, the admission rate was just 57.4 per cent – a significant drop from 87.2 per cent the previous academic year.
In 2020/21 there was also a decline in take-up, but catch-up programs have resulted in more children being protected.
The UKHSA urges all parents and carers to ensure their teenagers are up to date on their vaccinations before they leave school.
You should also be aware of the top eight signs to look out for: a high fever, a stiff neck, and a rash that won’t go away when a glass is rolled over it.
Vanessa Saliba, Consulting Epidemiologist at UKHSA, said: “In recent years we have seen a drop in vaccine uptake due to the challenges posed by the pandemic.”
“Many young people who have missed their vaccinations have already been caught up, but more needs to be done to ensure all beneficiaries are vaccinated.”
“Children who miss their teenage immunizations should contact their school nurse, school immunization team or GP practice to arrange a catch-up appointment.”
“These vaccines offer the best protection for young people as they begin their journey into adulthood and continue to develop, whether it’s in college, starting work, traveling or attending summer festivals.”
Health Secretary Maria Caulfield added: “It is incredibly important for children to stay up to date on routine vaccinations as it remains one of our best safeguards against infectious diseases, not only for the person being vaccinated but also for their family, friends and those around them Vicinity.” “
Last month, Unicef announced that between 2019 and 2021, around 67 million children around the world did not receive routine vaccinations.
The international children’s organization said overall support for vaccination remains “relatively strong” but several factors suggest “the risk of vaccine hesitancy could be increasing”.
These included uncertainty about the response to the pandemic, increasing access to misleading information, dwindling trust in expertise and political polarization, it said.
Meanwhile, Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has called on countries around the world and the international immunization organization Gavi to push ahead with a youth catch-up programme.
It warned that there was a growing number of unvaccinated children in crisis countries and that current programs could result in many children being so-called “zero-dose children” – children who did not receive routine vaccinations as a child.
“The double burden of humanitarian crises and the pandemic has meant that in many countries where we work, more and more children are at high risk of contracting life-threatening diseases such as measles, diphtheria or pneumonia that could be prevented by vaccination ‘ said Miriam Alia Prieto of Doctors Without Borders.
What is meningitis and what are the main symptoms?
MENINGITIS is an infection of the protective membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord.
Although it can affect people of any age, it is most common in babies, children, teenagers and young adults.
If not treated quickly, it can be very serious, causing life-threatening blood poisoning (sepsis) and permanent brain or nerve damage.
It is most often caused by a bacterial or viral infection that can be spread through sneezing, coughing, and kissing.
Several vaccines – including MenB, 6-in-1, Pneumococcal, Hib/MenC, MMR and MenACWY – offer some protection against meningitis.
Symptoms come on suddenly and may include:
- a high temperature (fever)
- be sick
- a rash that doesn’t go away when a glass is rolled over it (but a rash doesn’t always develop)
- A stiff neck
- an aversion to bright light
- drowsiness or unresponsiveness
- seizures (seizures)
If you think you or someone you care about may have meningitis or sepsis, call 999 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately.
Treatments include antibiotics, fluid, and oxygen.