Vaccinations could become compulsory for all school children within the UK under plans suggested by the health secretary, Matt Hancock.
Speaking at a Q&A session hosted by the Huffington Post at the Conservative party conference on Sunday, Matt Hancock said there is a ‘very strong argument’ for compulsory vaccination within schools as the failure to inoculate a sufficient number of children could put others at risk.
He said: ‘I’ve said before that we should be open minded and frankly what I’d say is that when we, or the state, provides services to people then it’s a two-way street. You’ve got to take your responsibilities too.’
He explained that the small number of children unable to be vaccinated may be undergoing medical treatment for illnesses such as cancer or hold strong religious convictions.
He commented: ‘Frankly, the proportion of people in either of those two categories is tiny compared to the seven or eight per cent now who don’t get vaccinated.’
He also said that if children arrive at school without the required vaccinations, he wants to make it ‘very easy’ for them to receive the inoculations.
Drop in vaccinations
The health secretary’s comments follow the news that uptake of 13 children’s vaccinations within England has declined in the last year.
The research from NHS Digital shows that vaccinations for diphtheria, tetanus and polio, as well as the controversial MMR vaccination, were included in this count.
Speaking to EYE, Professor Helen Bedford of UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health, said it is crucial that vaccination services become more ‘innovative’, with vaccinations being offered in schools, children’s centres or even supermarkets.
She said: ‘We can reverse this, there’s no question that we can. We need to otherwise children are going to be badly affected.’
The UK recently lost its measles-free status, after it was revealed there had been 230 cases of the infection in the first quarter of this year. The situation has grown worse recently, as 301 new measles infections were confirmed between April and June.