Vaccination coverage for children and mothers

Vaccination coverage is the best indicator of the level of protection a population will have against vaccine-preventable communicable diseases. Coverage is closely related to levels of disease; monitoring coverage identifies possible drops in immunity before levels of disease rise.

How has childhood vaccination coverage in England changed over time?

In England, vaccinations for diphtheria, tetanus, polio, pertussis and haemophilus influenza b (Hib) were offered separately between 1994/95 and 2005/06, and uptake declined slightly over this period. From 2006/07 onwards a combined vaccination against all five diseases was introduced, and uptake subsequently improved. The availability of a single, combined vaccination may have simplified the childhood vaccination schedule for children and parents. However, between 2006/07 and 2010/11 similar improvements in uptake were observed for the pneumococcal (PCV) vaccination and the Hib/Meningococcal group C (MenC) vaccination, suggesting an overall increase in vaccination coverage, irrespective of the new delivery method.

Between 1994/95 and 1996/97, there was a relatively steady rate of measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccinations for children in England, of around 91%. In 1998, a now discredited article appeared in the Lancet which linked the MMR vaccination to autism. Uptake decreased significantly, and by 2003/04 only 80% of children were vaccinated, which is well below the 92-94% required for herd immunity for mumps and rubella. In 2004, the Lancet partially retracted the paper and fully retracted it in 2010 and coverage consequently improved, reaching 93% in 2013/14. There have been outbreaks of measles in England in recent years, particularly in 2008 and 2012, when there were over a thousand confirmed cases.

Coverage for all of the childhood vaccinations plateaued between 2011/12 and 2013/14, but have since declined slightly. The European Region of the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that on a national basis at least 95% of children are immunised against vaccine-preventable diseases and targeted for elimination or control. There is an expectation that UK coverage for all routine childhood immunisations that are evaluated up to five years of age achieves the 95% coverage in line with the WHO target. Currently, only the DTaP/IPV/Hib vaccination measured at a child's second birthday is meeting this target.

Updated April 2018.

How does childhood vaccination coverage vary across UK countries?

In 2016/17, childhood vaccination coverage for DTaP/IPV/Hib, PCV and MMR was over 90% for all UK countries. In general, there was little variation between the four nations, although England's coverage was around 3% lower than the other three nations.

Updated April 2018.

How does the UK's Diphtheria, Tetanus Pertussis (DTP) vaccination coverage compare internationally?

The UK's DTP vaccination coverage has improved over time, from 91% in 2000 to 96% in 2015. Belgium and Greece have very high DTP vaccination rates, both with 99% coverage in 2015. Canada's DTP coverage was 91% in 2015, which was the lowest of the OECD countries compared here.

Updated April 2018.

How does the UK's measles vaccination coverage compare internationally?

Between 2000 and 2004, the UK's vaccination coverage for measles declined, falling from 88% to 81% over this period. This was in response to the safety concerns surrounding the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. Since 2004 the coverage rate has recovered, reaching 95% in 2015. In 2015, Portugal and Sweden had the highest measles vaccination coverage (98%) whilst Italy had the lowest (85%). Measles vaccination coverage increased between 2000 and 2015 for the majority of OECD countries.

Updated April 2018.

Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccination coverage

All girls aged 12 to 13 are offered the HPV (human papilloma virus) vaccination as part of the NHS childhood vaccination programme and are given a series of injections within a 12-month period. The vaccine protects against a group of viruses which have been linked to the development of cervical cancer. Note that not all cervical cancers are caused by HPV and so the vaccine does not result in immunity to cervical cancer, only to one of its potential causes.

There has been a consistently higher uptake of the first dose than subsequent doses over time in England. Uptake for the HPV vaccination remained fairly static between 2011/12 and 2013/14, with an average uptake of 91% for the first dose and 89% for two doses. By 2016/17, uptake had declined slightly, with an uptake of 89% for the first dose and 83% for two doses.

It is important to note that the vaccine coverage data collected from 2014/15 onwards are not directly comparable to previous years due to changes to the HPV schedule from three doses to two in September 2014.

Updated April 2018.

How has the pertussis vaccination coverage for pregnant women changed over time?

Despite high vaccine coverage since the early 1990s, in the five years prior to 2012 there were nearly 800 confirmed cases of whooping cough, where on average there were 270 babies admitted to hospital per year and four died. Babies under three months of age are too young to have completed a primary course of pertussis vaccine but the incidence of the disease is highest in infants of this age and they have the greatest risk of complications and death(Public Health England). In response to a national outbreak the Department of Health announced that pertussis immunisation would be offered to pregnant women from 1 October 2012 to protect infants by boosting the short-term immunity of babies until they can be vaccinated themselves (Department of Health) .

As can be seen in the chart, pertussis vaccination coverage in pregnant women is not especially high, reaching 70.7% in September 2017. Since its introduction in October 2012 there has been an increase in uptake from 43.7% to a peak of 76.2% in December 2016.

Updated April 2018.

About this data

For the schedule of vaccinations please see the NHS choices website.

For all vaccinations some caution should be exercised when comparing coverage figures over time due to data quality issues reported by some data providers. Apparent trends could reflect changes in the quality of data reported as well as real changes in vaccination coverage. Please see individual data collections for any additional information associated with these data.

International comparisons:

Definitions and comparability for all the indicators discussed in this report are taken directly from the OECD Health at a Glance 2017: OECD indicators. Detailed information about the definitions and the source and methods for each country can be found here.


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