Croydon consistently falls behind the national average in child vaccination numbers, according to an NHS report, suggesting that alternative arrangements for immunisation are required.
The introduction of vaccination services at pharmacies and children’s centres could increase immunisation uptake in the borough, a Social Care and Housing Scrutiny sub-committee meeting in Croydon heard last week when they discussed the report.
The recommendations come as data for the first quarter of 2013 shows that Croydon ranks below both London and England for all vaccinations at both two and five years of age, including MMR, Meningitis C and Polio.
The report reveals that between January and March 2013, just 73 per cent of children aged five received the MMR vaccination, compared to an 80.4 per cent average in London and 88 per cent across England. The NHS target for immunisation coverage is 95 per cent.
However the report suggests that low uptake was not mirrored in outbreaks of infectious disease: there have been only three cases of measles in the borough since January 2013.
As with many London boroughs, poor vaccination uptake in Croydon may be due to increasing birth rates, high levels of population mobility and cultural resistance among Orthodox Jewish and Traveller families.
However Dr Kenny Gibson, head of Early Years, Immunisations and Military Health for NHS England (London), speaking at the sub-committee meeting, suggested that the borough’s apparent underperformance could be due to issues with inaccurate data collection rather than uptake: 19 GP practices fail to submit data regularly, leading to disparities between the reality of children being jabbed and recorded.
Councillor Jason Cummings, Conservative Member for Heathfield ward and chair of the sub-committee, said: “I am mildly horrified that when we’re talking about immunisation we’re actually talking about data.”
A spokesperson for Public Health England said: “As with all London boroughs, there will be a need to provide immunisation leaflets in a range of languages and providers are addressing this.”
He added: “We are working with the range of providers in Croydon to make sure the clinical data is transferred between GP and Child Health so unvaccinated children and families can be contacted.”
Croydon Council continues to participate in the London-wide Celebrate and Protect scheme, which sends a reminder to parents on their child’s first and fourth birthdays to encourage them to get vaccinated.