HEALTH chiefs are warning that delaying childhood immunisations, could lead to outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases.
Public health experts, and GPs, across County Durham are urging parents and carers to continue to vaccinate themselves and their children to prevent against deadly and highly contagious childhood diseases including polio, measles and whooping cough.
Dr Stewart Findlay, chief officer, NHS County Durham Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “Following the UK Heath Security Agency (UKHSA) news that the polio virus has recently been detected in the UK, we need parents and carers to ensure that they continue to get their children immunised to protect them against diseases that can be extremely serious in a young child.
“Vaccines save lives and ensuring children are properly immunised is one of the most important things a parent can do.
“Delaying immunisations, even for a short period, could result in increased numbers of children exposed to infection and raise the possibility of an outbreak of these vaccine-preventable diseases.”
The current risk to the population from polio is extremely low with the UK currently considered polio-free with a low-risk of transmission.
Polio is caused by a virus that spreads easily when an infected person coughs or sneezes and can also be caught from food or water that has been in contact with the faeces of someone with the virus.
The best way to prevent and protect against polio is to ensure vaccinations are kept up to date.
The Polio vaccine is part of the NHS routine childhood vaccination schedule given at 8, 12 and 16 weeks old, at 3 years and 4 months as a pre-school booster and as a final teenage booster at age 14.
All doses must be completed to be fully vaccinated against the virus.
The Polio vaccine can be given to children and adults at any time if they have not been previously vaccinated.
Amanda Healy, director of public health, Durham County Council, added: “Routine immunisation continues to be the very best way of protecting children against serious diseases and in County Durham we have an uptake of 95% for childhood vaccination coverage, in line with World Health Organisation recommendations.
“However even during these unprecedented times, where the country is continuing to deal with Covid-19, we still need parents and carers to ensure their children are immunised.
“Ensuring your child is vaccinated helps guard them against a host of serious diseases and ensures they get the best protection possible.
“The risk to County Durham residents from recent detections of poliovirus in sewage in North and East London Poliovirus detected in sewage from North and East London – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) is extremely low.
“These detections are not of “wild” polio, which has not been seen in the UK since 1984, and we would not expect to see it spread in the same way. However, this incident serves as a timely reminder to make sure that everyone is up-to-date with their immunisations against all infectious diseases”. For further information on childhood immunisations, please contact your GP practice.