It's been a year, now school's out...
I remember a conversation 25 years ago where my university friends and I were chatting about how we used to write daily in our diaries until, as one of them put it, "my life got too exciting to keep up with". Blogging as a public health consultant is the same. I totally intend to share my work experiences of the past week but work is too busy and varied to keep pace! Things seem to be slowing down these past few days. I don't know if it's because school days are drawing to an end, people are off or planning to go off on holidays but there is a heightened sense of just chillin'.
It's been an incredibly busy year. Firstly there was flu season - which was marked by a mild winter this time and little circulation of influenza. Vaccination rates were down in London and whilst the reasons are multi-factoral, there was confusion over the stock supplies of aTIV for the over 65s resulting in cancelled and postponed appointments. Back in February- April 2019, I led a suite of evaluations into what happened across our cohorts (i.e. 2-3 year old children, primary school aged children, pregnant women, clinically 'at risk', over 65s and health care workers). The results of which have been fed into our new Pan London 'flu vaccination plan and we're planning to do a lot of new exciting intitiatives to get our rates up this winter and better protection our population. We have a workshop with our flu leads in Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) coming up on Wednesday and I'm really looking forward to seeing the new improved plans that come out of that.
Our school aged vaccinations are going from strength to strength and this September, all boys in year 8 will be offered HPV vaccine alongside girls. We had our annual 'deep dive' workshop with our school aged vaccination providers in June and Dr Kevin Pollack from Health Protection Scotland showed us this eye opening presentation on how HPV vaccine has not only dramatically cut cervical cancer rates but can reduce incidences of head and neck cancers too. I had no idea how big the role HPV played in causing cancer and so increasing uptake of HPV vaccine has taken on greater importance for me.
Measles has featured predominatly in the media this year. With declining national rates of MMR vaccine and measles and mumps outbreaks happening across the country, it is really crucial that we attain our level of herd immunity (measured as 95% uptake of MMR by age 5). These diseases can have serious health repercussions. This isn't the time for complacency and so a big part of my job to the end of 2019 will be ensuring London's uptake rates increase via our MMR Recovery Plan and Measles and Rubella Elimination Plan.
Most of our measles cases in London were imported from abroad so if you're travelling this summer, please ensure that you have had your two doses of MMR. It's a good idea to check with your GP or local travel clinic what vaccines you may need before you go travelling. Hep A, Typhoid, Polio (given as diptheria/tetanus/polio jab) and cholera are all free on the NHS. Men ACWY (which protects agains 4 causes of meningitis) is free to those aged up to 25 years. Check https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/travel-vaccinations/ for more details.