Following the publication of the Health and Social Care Committee report on Prevention in Health and Social Care: Vaccination, we look at how the UK’s past vaccination success continues to be at risk if current challenges are not addressed. The message is clear: action must be taken now to maintain the UK’s position as a global leader in vaccination.
The state of play in the UK
UK vaccine coverage in 2021-22 decreased compared to the year before, with no single childhood vaccination meeting the World Health Organisation (WHO) global target of 95%. For some vaccines such as measles, this is the necessary level of uptake to achieve herd immunity.1
A comprehensive vaccination and immunisation strategy from NHS England is essential to meet targets and address variations in uptake, but this requires full support from the Government. This is a stance spearheaded by the Health and Social Care Committee made up of experts in the field, including Sanofi UK and Ireland’s General Manager for Vaccines, Rebecca Catterick.
“The Health and Social Care Committee’s report on vaccination published today provides a stark reminder that the UK’s position as a global leader in Vaccines is at risk. The importance of vaccination is indisputable: it is the most cost-effective way to prevent ill health and save lives. It can help to reduce health inequalities and pressure on the NHS, freeing up much needed capacity. Yet, a decade of decline in immunisation rates, combined with a complex process of assessment and decision-making, is harming public health and future innovation in the UK.
Sanofi supports the call for the NHS to have a sharper focus on prevention, and the need for an integrated vaccination and immunisation strategy that is supported by the Government. We also agree with the recommendation that action is needed to ensure the JCVI and MHRA are adequately resourced to enable them to play their part in delivering new innovations. Ultimately, the recommendations in this report are critical to ensuring we can reinstate the UK’s status as a leader in vaccination and steer it towards becoming a global ‘Science Superpower’.”
- Rebecca Catterick, General Manager for Vaccines, Sanofi UK & Ireland
Addressing barriers to unlock the value of vaccines
Immunisation remains the best and most cost-effective way to prevent illness and save lives.2,3 It is essential that vaccinations are adopted and rolled out as a priority to help keep people of all age groups as healthy as possible and out of the hospital.
We recognise the barriers that exist to vaccination, some of which the pandemic has placed a spotlight upon. COVID-19 has intensified a trend of fewer people opting-in for vaccinations, with uptake in childhood immunisation programmes also falling by around a fifth during the pandemic.4 Barriers affecting both intention to vaccinate and vaccination include interpersonal, intrapersonal and community factors.5 In addition, top-down barriers include an absence of collaborative horizon-scanning, a lacking streamlined process for adoption of new immunisation programmes, and a need for clear ministerial oversight of vaccines.6 We remain committed to working in close partnership with the health system and health authorities to address these personal, policy, and institutional barriers to ultimately help ensure that the UK remains a leader in preventative healthcare.
Building on best practice to create a joined-up vaccine strategy
The COVID-19 vaccine rollout success was due to a mission-based approach and mobilising a wide range of people, including establishing a well-resourced Vaccines Taskforce (VTF) that facilitated an expanded workforce of immunisers, provided early investment in vaccines, and improved data monitoring and surveillance.7 These successes should be applied to all routine immunisation programmes.
To maintain its global leadership in vaccination efforts, the UK must be resolute in accelerating the adoption of new vaccination programmes as soon as vaccines are licensed. To achieve this, we must address practical challenges head-on, make the most effective use of healthcare professionals, empower local leaders and integrated care systems, and embrace diverse voices for vaccination messaging.
To ensure that no one is left behind, it is crucial to explore a more flexible delivery model which takes into consideration amendments to existing regulations. This could involve leveraging the expertise of medical and nursing students, as well as recently retired staff. By doing so, we can maximize the reach and impact of vaccination campaigns, protect the health of our communities, and pave the way for the UK to gain reputation as a ‘Science Superpower’.
1 NHS Digital. Childhood Vaccination Coverage Statistics- England, 2021-22. Available at: https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/nhs-immunisation-statistics/2021-22.
2 DHSC. (2018). Prevention is better than cure.
3 NHS England (2019). The NHS Long Term Plan. https://www.longtermplan.nhs.uk/publication/nhs-long-term-plan/.
4 WHO. (2022). COVID-19 pandemic fuels largest continued backslide in vaccinations in three decades. Available at: https://www.who.int/news/item/15-07-2022-covid-19-pandemic-fuels-largest-continued-backslide-in-vaccinations-in-three-decades
5 Public Health England. (2021). Immunisation Inequalities Strategy. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/957717/immnstn-equity_STRATEGY_v11.pdf.
6 Policy Exchange. (2022) The future for vaccines policy in England. https://policyexchange.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/A-Fresh-Shot.pdf.
7 GOV.UK. VTF objectives and membership of the steering group. (2021). https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-vaccine-taskforce-objectives-and-membership-of-steering-group/vtf-objectives-and-membership-of-the-steering-group.