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UK’s world-leading role on vaccination at risk, warn MPs

27 July 2023

The UK is at risk of losing its position as a global leader on vaccination without action to address challenges around uptake and bureaucratic processes in setting up clinical trials. 

The Health and Social Care Committee’s report on vaccination calls for urgent action to tackle declining rates among children, citing concern that England did not meet the 95% target for any routine childhood immunisations in 2021/22. MPs note that England was the only nation of the UK where coverage for all childhood vaccines at all ages was below the target, and coverage rates were consistently below the UK average. The Committee urges a more flexible delivery model to deliver vaccinations to overcome practical challenges over times or locations.

This is the first report to be published by the Committee in its major inquiry into preventing ill-health with ten workstreams being examined.

MPs say the UK lags behind international competitors on support for clinical research, in particular in the clinical trials system, and they call for urgent reform. The Committee also wants to see action now to ensure the readiness of NHS England, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulation Agency (MHRA) and the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) to support innovations around preventative healthcare, such as personalised cancer vaccine, given an uncertain timeframe.

Chair's comment

Steve Brine MP, Chair of the Health and Social Committee, said: 

“Vaccination is the one of the greatest success stories when it comes to preventing infection. However, unless the Government addresses challenges around declining rates among childhood immunisations and implements reform on clinical trials, the UK’s position as a global leader on vaccination risks being lost. 

“The UK Health Security Agency issued a warning earlier this month that London risks a measles outbreak of tens of thousands of cases if MMR rates remain low, and we’ve seen a spike in the capital and in the West Midlands already, so that should be a massive wake-up call.

“When it comes to developing the medicines of the future, it’s alarming to hear that industrial clinical trial activity in the UK is at the lowest point to date. One of the challenges is the slowness of bureaucratic processes to set up trials. This and other challenges must be fixed if we are to make the most of our world-leading academic and research expertise.”              

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