For me, summer slowly comes to an end when I start to hear talk about flu vaccinations and recently I have heard a lot of chatter about this topic. Before thinking about that, it is also important to consider childhood vaccinations which is an all the year round activity. In fact, NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) have started a consultation process trying to look at ways of boosting vaccination rates. This is important because over the last 2 years, uptake levels of childhood vaccinations across the country have slightly dipped. The reasons for all children not being fully immunised includes pressure on primary care services, some vaccines subject to shortages and not optimally following up non attenders.
This topic was recently covered in an interesting Univadis news article, NICE consults on child vaccination rates which not only explores the reasons for the slight fall in immunisation rates, but suggests ways of improving them. One idea is to follow up non attenders with a phone call or a text. I have personally been impressed by the impact of text based reminders for appointments, cervical smears etc and the feedback from patients has generally been very positive. One issue is the cost of funding a text based service and of course you need to have the correct up mobile phone number for the appropriate person, though it is good to have that anyway.
According to the Univadis article “Around three million children and young people may have missed [an MMR] vaccine”and I found that to be a staggering amount of people. In fact, that kind of statistic could be usefully deployed in a public health campaign which would hopefully include a significant on line presence. NICE are still in consultation over this new guidance which should be finalised and published in the early new year. Even so, this article highlights the importance of finding good strategies to boost current levels of immunisation rates. There is certainly room for improvement and hopefully NICE can steer us in the right direction.
Dr Harry Brown, editor-in-chief Univadis