ONE in every four children in care in Essex is not up to date with their vaccinations – putting them at risk of serious illnesses such as measles, mumps and rubella.
New figures from Public Health England reveal that 730 children were being looked after by local authorities in the county in 2018.
But 165 of these children – roughly one in every four – were not up to date with their vaccinations.
It means they potentially have an increased risk of catching illnesses that also include pneumonia and even types of cancer – a situation that experts have described as “really worrying”.
There are many different vaccines that children are expected to be given at key stages in childhood.
By the time a child is one, they should have received all doses of their six-in-one vaccine.
This protects against six separate diseases including diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough.
They should also have been vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella, and pneumonia, amongst other illnesses, at this age.
As well as this children should be given a flu vaccine every year between the ages of two and nine.
Girls aged between 12 and 13 are offered the HPV vaccine, which protects against cervical cancer – and both boys and girls should be given a three-in-one “teenage” booster at the age of 14.
At this age they should also be given a vaccine to prevent against different types of meningitis and septicaemia.
The figures show that the story for Essex’s children in care is getting worse.
The proportion of unvaccinated children – which stood at 25 per cent in 2018 – was last higher in 2012, when modern records began.
That year, 51 per cent of children in care were recorded as being behind in their vaccinations.
And the overall situation in Essex is worse than the national average.
There were 52,180 children living in care across England in 2018, and 7,660 of those were not up to date with their vaccines – a rate of one in every seven.
Natasha Finlayson, chief executive of the children in care charity Become, said: “The number of children in care who aren’t up to date with vaccinations is really worrying, both for them and because of the health threat this poses to other people.
“Children in care can often miss out on vaccinations in early childhood because the majority are taken into care from dysfunctional, chaotic family situations where there is abuse or neglect, often accompanied by parental alcoholism, drug addiction and poor mental health.
“Once in care, there can be further complications as many children will have several placements throughout their time in care, with foster families or in children’s homes.
“Some will bounce between their birth family and care.
“This means that the accountability for making sure the child is up to date with vaccinations is diminished, and records that should go with the child can easily be misplaced.”
The Department for Education advised that it was responsible for the overall care planning for looked after children and that older children were less likely to be up to date with immunisations.
Dr Michael Edelstein, consultant epidemiologist at Public Health England, said: “We want every child to benefit from the UK vaccination programme, and therefore encourage all those responsible for the care of children to ensure the children they care for are up to date for all their childhood jabs.
“We are working closely with the NHS, and with staff in general practice where most vaccinations are delivered, to improve uptake.”
ECC has been asked for comment.