Department of Health and Social Care
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National immunisation programme continues to save lives

National immunisation programme continues to save lives

DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH News Release issued by The Government News Network on 21 April 2008


The Government's national immunisation programme has prevented well over 3,000 cases of death or serious illness and has ensured that young people are not at risk from Meningitis, according to a new report out today.

The Director of Immunisation's report reveals that, for the first time, there were no deaths in the under 19's from MenC (Meningococcal C/meningitis) last year. Previously MenC has killed up to 78 people a year and left serious complications such as brain damage and amputations in survivors.

The report underlines the importance of the Government's focus on preventing ill health and proves that immunisation prevents more serious illness and much bigger costs in years to come.

The report also states that:

* a recent survey (November 2007) found that 73 per cent of parents feel the MMR vaccine is safe, compared to 63 per cent in 2003;

* since its introduction in 2006, the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) has prevented an estimated 470 cases of serious illness or deaths in young children (such as meningitis, septicaemia and severe pneumonia);

* cases of MenC in children have reduced by 95 per cent since the introduction of the meningococcal C conjugate vaccine in 1999 - and over 500 deaths have been prevented;

* just over 85 per cent of children now receive one dose of MMR vaccine by their second birthday; and

* 74 per cent of people aged 65 and over in England received their flu vaccine in 2006/07. There were no delays with the vaccine supply this year.

Professor David Salisbury said:

"This report highlights some of the recent successes and new challenges for our immunisation programme. It is published during the World Health Organization European Immunisation Week as our work links in with the international efforts to protect our children from vaccine preventable diseases. However, it is imperative that we continue to do all we can to encourage take up of vaccines - particularly MMR.

"The evidence on MMR is clear. Population studies and studies in individual children show no link between the vaccine and autism. We need to put that scare behind us and make sure our children are as well protected as possible".

Dawn Primarolo, Public Health Minister said:

"This report underlines the need for vaccination and proves that our programme is helping to halt diseases in their tracks. It is proof that the UK has one of the most successful immunisation programmes in the world, thanks to the hard work of NHS staff.

"The childhood immunisation programme continues to be a cornerstone of public health protection in this country. Parents can be confident that making sure their children have their routine jabs is the best way to protect them."

A fact sheet, also published today, which sets out the picture since immunisation was introduced in the 1950's shows that:

* today there are NO cases of paralysis from polio - 8,000 people a year were previously paralysed by the disease;

* there are NO cases of diphtheria today - this previously killed 3,000 people a year; and

* since the year 2000 the MenC vaccine has prevented over 500 deaths.

Notes to editors:

1. For all enquiries contact 0207 210 4850.

2. A letter sent out to health professionals providing an update on the childhood immunisation programme is available at

3. Parents and health professionals can access further information about vaccines from

European Immunisation Week

"Top Ten Winners for UK Immunisations"

Big Facts!

Since the introduction of the routine childhood immunisation, many thousands of deaths have been prevented and serious diseases avoided. Here are a few of the success stories:

1. In the early 1950s, epidemics of polio were common with as many as 8000 people paralysed each year. Today nobody is paralysed by polio.

2. Over 3000 people died from diphtheria each year before the introduction of a vaccine. Today there are no cases.

3. Before the introduction of MMR vaccine, around 1200 people were admitted to hospital each year because of mumps, meningitis or encephalitis.

4. Since 2000, the meningitis C vaccination programme has prevented over 500 deaths. Last year nobody under 19 died of meningitis C; in 1998, 78 children & young people died.

5. Before the introduction of a measles vaccine, about 100 children died from measles each year.

6. Since the start of the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) programme in September 2006 around 100 cases of meningitis have been prevented in young children.

7. Before the introduction of haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) vaccination, one in every 600 children developed Hib meningitis or other serious forms of disease before their fifth birthday. Today there is only a handful of cases in young children.

8. Tetanus has disappeared in UK children since the 1970s.

9. Rubella vaccinations included in MMR (measles, mumps & rubella vaccine) has stopped the damage that rubella infection in pregnancy used to cause. On average 50 babies were born with severe rubella damage and up to 1000 terminations of pregnancy were done because of rubella.

10. Human papilloma virus vaccine (HPV) will be introduced in autumn 2008. The goal is to protect girls aged 12-13years from having cervical cancer in the future. We expect to prevent 400 cases of cervical cancer a year.

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