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Childhood illness is no fun …. and serious childhood disease can be fatal

Herefordshire health professionals are getting together this week to explore ways of improving immunisation rates amongst the county’s young children.

Immunisation is required to protect children from diseases like measles, tetanus, meningitis and polio.  Last year in Herefordshire more than 500 children under five years of age did not receive their full course of immunisations in line with national schedules.

Dr Arif Mahmood, consultant in public health medicine, said:  “Parents and carers do not always realise that their child needs more than one injection to be fully protected from a disease.  For example with meningitis, two injections are need: one when the baby is three months and another when they are four months.

“As a result, appointments made by GPs are not always being met and some children remain only partly immunised.  Without full immunisation the health of the child, and other vulnerable members of the community who may catch the disease from the child, are at risk.”

GPs and health visitors are getting together at the NHS headquarters in Belmont later this week (15 March) to discuss the impact this is having locally and discuss examples of good practice across the county to try and boost uptake.

The meeting coincides with a poster campaign being launched by NHS Herefordshire which urges parents to make sure their children complete a series of jabs to provide full protection from diseases and keep the county free of preventable diseases.

Jane Terry, delivery unit manager, said “Health visitors provide a vital link to parents and carers of babies and toddlers.   Each new born is assigned a health visitor who supports the parent/carer and monitors the baby’s progress and immunisation records in a red book which is kept by the parent/carer.” 

“This contact with health visitors reduces as the child grows, and the red book can get forgotten or mislaid.  As a result, it’s easy for follow-up injections to become delayed.  The worry is that parents assume that the immunisation their child received as a baby means they are safe, but unless the course has been completed, this is simply not the case.

“We are trying to make parents aware that if their children have not received the full course of jabs, their children are at risk.  We want them to check with their health visitor or GP to make sure their child is protected. Parents are also reminded that sessions called Early Days or Tot Talk, where they can ask questions about immunisations, are being run by health visitors at their local children centres.”