The recent drop in childhood vaccination uptake is a cause of concern for all of us, as your article rightly points out (No MMR should mean no school place, say GPs, 9 September), with only 87.2% of children in England receiving two doses of the MMR vaccine by age five. However, the factors that have led to this are complex and multifactorial. In such a situation, which has the potential to significantly affect our nation’s health, our policy decisions must be guided by evidence.
Compulsory vaccination is a blunt tool and there is no current evidence that it would increase the UK’s immunisation rate, but rather concerns that it could increase current health inequities and alienate parents with questions on vaccination. However, there are lots of other actions that the government can take to positively influence vaccine uptake, many of which were outlined in the No 10’s recent announcement, such as strengthening the role of local immunisation coordinators, promoting catch-up vaccinations and improving information provision on vaccination.Healthcare professionals are the most trusted information source on vaccination, so we should encourage positive and educated conversations between them and parents, based on mutual trust. With the correct funding available, we at the British Society for Immunology believe that our country can make changes to significantly increase vaccine uptake without resorting to the extreme measure of compulsory vaccination.
Prof Arne Akbar
President, British Society for Immunology