UK health officials are warning that teenagers may be at risk of rare diseases due to a drop-off in vaccinations during the Covid pandemic. In 2021-22, 69% of 13 and 14-year-olds received the three-in-one booster against tetanus, diphtheria and polio, which is free on the NHS to all 14-year-olds, through their school. This is a 7% decrease from the previous year. Another vaccine, against meningitis, also saw a similar fall in uptake.
Parents are being urged to make sure young people are up to date with their vaccines before they leave school. The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said many of those who had missed out on vaccines due to school closures in the pandemic have now been immunised, but vaccine coverage remains below pre-pandemic levels. UKHSA consultant epidemiologist Dr Vanessa Saliba said children and young people who had missed out on their teenage vaccines should contact their school nurse, school immunisation team or GP surgery to arrange a catch-up.
The HPV vaccine is also offered in secondary schools and protects against a range of cancers. Steve Russell, national director for vaccination and screening, said these vaccines are “extremely well-researched” and proven to provide protection against a range of serious diseases. He strongly urged those eligible and their family members and guardians to ensure they are up to date, and if not to come forward for their vaccines as soon as possible – it’s the best way to keep them protected.
The UN agency Unicef recently reported worrying signs that confidence in life-saving childhood vaccines was slipping worldwide, partly due to vaccine hesitancy and disinformation. UK health officials are therefore urging parents to ensure their teenagers are up to date with their vaccinations before they leave school. Vaccines such as the three-in-one booster and the MenACWY vaccine are free on the NHS for 14-year-olds, while the HPV vaccine is offered in secondary schools. All five doses of the three-in-one booster are crucial for building up long-term protection, and the MenACWY vaccine is available to anyone up to the age of 25 through their GP. Vaccines are proven to provide protection against a range of serious diseases, so it is important that young people get their vaccinations as soon as possible.