A third of the kids in care in Tameside are behind with their vaccinations, according to new public health figures – potentially increasing their risk of catching illnesses.
The rate of looked-after children who are not up to date on their NHS recommended jabs has been steadily increasing in the borough over the past three years.
Now at a level of just 64.8 percent for 2018, the authority has the lowest rate in Greater Manchester by a significant margin, according to Public Health England (PHE).
The town hall with the next worst rate is Manchester, at 87.7 pc, followed by Oldham at 88.9 pc – meaning one in every ten children isn’t fully protected in that authority.
Tameside council told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that they believe the statistics are actually higher than have been published by the health body and are addressing an issue with how they record their figures.
They added that a lot of ‘proactive work’ was ongoing and they hoped to see improvements in the 2019 statistics.
Hundreds of vulnerable children are currently being cared for by the town hall.
If youngsters aren’t up to date with their vaccines it means they potentially have an increased risk of catching illnesses, some of which may be life threatening.
These include measles, pneumonia, and even types of cancer – a situation that experts have described as ‘really worrying’.
According to PHE, the number of fully vaccinated kids in Tameside has declined year on year since 2015.
The local authority was rated ‘inadequate’ for its children’s services by Ofsted in 2016.
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.”
According to government figures, there were 757 children looked after in Tameside during 2017/18.
As of January, this year there were 650 youngsters recorded as being in care.
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.
Children should also 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.
Steph Meehan, a mum of two from Ashton, said it was ‘child abuse’ not to get youngsters fully vaccinated.
“My son, who was too young to have all his measles jabs at the time, actually caught measles and nearly died,” she said.
“Since then, he is always poorly, and has no immune system whatsoever.
Steph added that children in care should be vaccinated as a priority.
“Children in care who are going to be living with other children should be vaccinated – no ifs or buts about it,” she said.
Overall in Greater Manchester there were 360 children in care who had not been given all the recommended immunisations – a rate of one in every 11.
A Tameside council spokesperson said: “We believe the numbers to be higher than what the data suggests but we have identified a recording issue, which we are addressing.
“It is also worth noting these figures are for 2018 and, as a lot of proactive work has been put in this area, we are hope to see further improvement in 2019.”
The Department for Education advised that they are 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.”
Across the rest of Greater Manchester, the best performing local authority for last year is Bury, with 100 pc of kids up to date, followed by Rochdale at 98.6 pc, Wigan at 98.5 pc and Bolton at 98.4 pc.
Salford follows at 97.8 pc, then Trafford at 91.7 pc and Stockport at 90.9 pc.
Do you have a story for us? Want to tell us about something going on in Tameside, Oldham or Rochdale? Let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org , calling us on 0161 621 6515 , tweeting us @rev962 or messaging us through our Facebook page. All contact will be treated in confidence.