Analysis of the latest childhood vaccination coverage statistics published by the NHS have revealed that the West Midlands’ vaccination rates are below the 95% benchmark set by World Health Organization, which aims to control virus outbreaks.
It comes after the poliovirus was identified by the UK Health Security Agency in sewage samples collected from the Beckton Sewage Treatment Works in London.
The UK Health Security Agency said that the most likely scenario for the new polio cases is that a vaccinated person entered the country before February 2022 from a country where an oral polio vaccine has been used for supplementary immunisation campaigns.
Although the risk to public health is low, health experts are encouraging parents to get their children vaccinated.
Dr Vanessa Saliba, a consultant epidemiologist at UKHSA, said: “Vaccine-derived poliovirus has the potential to spread, particularly in communities where vaccine uptake is lower.
“On rare occasions, it can cause paralysis in people who are not fully vaccinated, so if you or your child are not up to date with your polio vaccinations, it’s important you contact your GP to catch up or if unsure check your Red Book. Most of the UK population will be protected from vaccination in childhood, but in some communities with low vaccine coverage, individuals may remain at risk.”
The vaccine comes in a ‘six in one’ dose, which offers protection against polio as well as other diseases such as hepatitis B and tetanus.
A primary course is given over the first few months of a child’s life, with boosters required three years after completion of the primary course.
West Midlands areas with the highest and lowest vaccination rates
Sandwell has the lowest vaccination rates in the West Midlands, with 86.7% of children vaccinated for polio before their first birthday.
Birmingham has the second-lowest vaccination rate with 87.5% of under-ones jabbed, followed by Wolverhampton with 88.4%.
Shropshire has the highest vaccination rate in the region with 95.8%, followed by Worcestershire with 95.6% vaccinated and Staffordshire with 95.6% vaccinated.
Overall, ten areas in the West Midlands were below the WHO target, according to the figures.
How does the West Midlands compare with the rest of the UK?
The UK vaccination rate as a whole is 92.6% – 2.4 percentage points lower than the World Health Organisation target of 95%.
Vaccination rates in the West Midlands are the third-lowest in the UK, with 91.9% of children vaccinated against polio before their first birthday during the 2020-21 period.
This means the region is slightly below the national average, as England’s vaccination rate is 92.0%.
The North East is the only English region to be above the WHO target, having vaccinated 95.5% of children.
Scotland and Wales also achieved the goal, with vaccination rates hitting 96.5% and 95.6%.
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